There’s nothing to Tanner Hall, a coming-of-age saga for four young girls restricted by their boarding school residence. Each has their own conflicts to sort out: boys, older men, sexuality, and general bitchiness, enough to carry some narrative structure if the film sought it out.
Much of the drama is self-brought, the girls sneaking out the school to attend a local fair, an event with clearly a lot riding on it, only to end up tossing it aside, forgotten as the film drags on. Fern (Rooney Mara) casts her shy side away for an affair with her mother’s friends husband, garnering limited emotional weight. Whatever tension derived is sapped from its overwrought exterior bursting at the seams with indie quaintness.
One girl turns into a stand-out, Victoria (Georgia King), burdened by her abusive mother and a near suicidal state. Tanner Hall’s darkest moments, from Victoria cutting herself to an immensely creepy visit to a casket display are drowned out by the sheer comedic stupidity of a teachers infidelity. Again, the effect on the girls is dropped post-events, plotlines developed longer than they’re relevant.
There’s a visual presence to Tanner Hall at least, some of its bleak, pale photography adding an oppressive quality to this story of girls trying to break free into adulthood. Scenes are shot backed by fall leaves, never allowing the screen to overflow with any color outside of earth-like tones. It suits the material, fitting in with the soundtrack too, even if the emotional toll results in nothing.
Maybe this is a film about waiting, the girls waiting for adulthood, the music waiting for any peaks, the audience waiting for anything of merit to happen… None of it seems to come to fruition. It has all the depth of a reality show, total junk food without a point. Although Tanner Hall is shot better, at least most reality shows force something interesting to happen.
As stated above, there’s a pleasant, subtle look to the film, shot with a mixture of 35mm and limited 16mm for a little grit and atmosphere. Anchor Bay dishes out an AVC encode capable of handling both formats cleanly, the clean grain structure remaining firm, and intact. There’s no sense the codec is losing control even under heavy attack.
Clarity is truly superb, close-ups not necessarily consistent yet dazzling when at their peak. Clothing carries discernible texture, and exteriors are rich with definition. Shots of the tree-laden areas on campus are superb, and when the camera moves in, it becomes a complete package of intense sharpness and focus.
Colors veer warmly towards oranges, yellows, and browns, giving the film a vintage appearance even though it appears to be taking place in modern times. Flesh tones stick to a natural scale, allowing colors to surround them. Considering the palette, saturation is bold, bright, and appealing.
Black levels have a stern depth that doesn’t let up, nighttime scenes few but certainly where the disc is challenged the most. There’s enough pop to this one to keep it moving from one scene to the next without any visual abnormality. Contrast works the other end without any overzealous actions to complete a wonderfully crisp video package.
Tanner Hall dies when it comes to audio, giving this TrueHD mix a meaningless existence. Directionality is sparse, failing to move vehicles passing out of the center space and barely even coming alive during a trip to the fair. All of the music, screaming kids, and rides stick to the fronts at the best.
Inside the barren, sterile halls of the school, echoes flatline as they try to escape their mono-oriented focus. There’s zero energy coming from any channel other than the center for dialogue. Music will spruce things up with a bit with a stereo split and smooth quality that presents these meager songs with plenty of fidelity. The rest might as well be as deadened as the film.
Short of trailers, Anchor Bay doesn’t offer any bonus material.
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