DVD: Saving Grace (2000)

February 12, 2014 | By

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Film: Very Good/ DVD Transfer: Very Good / DVD Extras: Excellent

Label: New Line Home Video / Region: 1 (NTSC) / Released: December 19, 2000

Genre: Comedy

Synopsis: A widow decides to apply her horticulture skills towads growing primo weed to save her house from the evil finance company.

Special Features:  Audio commentary track 1: actors Brenda Blethyn & Craig Ferguson with director Nigel Cole / Audio commentary track 2: actor/co-writer Craig Ferguson, co-writer/producer Mark Crowdy, and director Nigel Cole / Theatrical trailer / Cast & Crew notes / Full Screen version

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Review:

Saving Grace has unsurprisingly aged as an amiable, predictable, quirky piece of fluff, guaranteed to please audiences wanting a light sugar wafer with no aftertaste or afterthought whatsoever (and that specific demographic preferring fantasy tales where violence, profanity, sexual innuendo, and real-world consequences are non-existent).

In the benevolent fantasy world created by the writers, Grace’s hubbie hath past away, leaving her with over $600,000 in debt, but the entire town turns a blind eye to her financial woes, and ignore her recent foray into hemp production. It’s a great hook – a older widow beloved by the village finds a quirky venue to save her home from a disastrous situation – and the story actually sustains a breezy, engaging momentum up until Grace’s meeting with a drug lord, after which a mildly threatening element is introduced, and inevitably wraps up the film by having all the key characters converge in a mad scuffle. Music interludes and montages bridge and compact narrative sections, and ensure the film ends a smidge above the 90 minute mark.

Because the DVD’s commentary tracks were recorded soon after the film’s release, they predate the film’s more intriguing stature as the first appearance of Dr. Martin Bamford, a small supporting character played by Martin Clunes.

Credited to co-writer/story creator Mark Crowdy, the Bamford character – a pot-smoking, easygoing local doc – was later spun off in a pair of TV movies, Doc Martin, and Doc Martin and the Legend of the Cloutie (both 2003) before the character was again retooled into a more arrogant, socially clumsy person for the hit ITV series Doc Martin.

Fans of the TV series will find the doc’s first appearance surprising: physically Clunes is much younger, slender, and is topped with a mop of wavy hair, but he’s also a vastly different character, as Bamford is the antithesis of the revamped Dr. Martin Ellingham. The most immediate difference is that Bamford smiles – an ability Ellingham has virtually lost by the end of the second season – and he’s clearly a local boy and sidekick to Matthew Stewart (co-star/co-writer Craig Ferguson), Grace’s gardener who introduces her to the mighty hemp plant.

In the Doc Martin TV series, the character is a London-based surgeon who moves back to his childhood village in Cornwall and establishing himself as the local G.P. after developing an aversion to blood. The gorgeous Cornwall locations are just as vital to Saving Grace as the Doc Martin variations, although the series producers have made a point to depict the village as a stunningly sunny paradise tucked in small pocket that’s rarely affected by rain, chilly air, and gloomy fog.

(On the DVD’s second commentary track, co-writer Mark Crowdy, who was born and later returned to Cornwall inhis later years, offers no info regarding the spin-off TV movies, which focused on Dr. Martin Bamford, nor the revamped TV series with the Ellingham variation, which is a pity, as neither the Australian DVDs of the TV movies nor DVDs of the TV series offer an background into the creation of the revised TV character.)

With the exception of Clunes, none of the characters or major actors were ported over to the TV series (although actor Tristan Sturrock, who plays Matthew Stewart’s other sidekick and Bamford’s pot-smoking buddy, appeared in the series’ second season as Danny Steel, a local boy who briefly returns from his London-based architecture firm when a few mega-projects failed to pan out).

For Doc Martin fans, Saving Grace is at best an apocryphal footnote in the show’s origins, with very strong tonal differences in the depiction of local characters. Fans of genial, slightly offbeat light comedies will find the film to be a pleasant pastry, albeit quite airy and unsubstantive.

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© 2007 Mark R. Hasan

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External References:

IMDB Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography

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