Thursday, August 5, 2010

Film Review: Heartless (2009)


“The darker it gets the more you see”

DIRECTOR: Philip Ridley
CAST: Jim Sturgess, Noel Clark, Joseph Mawle, Eddie Marsan, Timothy Spall,

ANECDOTAL: HEARTLESS is directed by Philip Ridley whom has not directed a film in 14 years, welcome back dude. His previous films are THE PASSION OF THE DARKLY NOON (1995) and THE REFLECTING SKIN (1990), neither of which I’ve seen, but having watched HEARTLESS, I’ll need to remedy this oversight ASAP.

SYNOPSIS: A troubled young man, taking note of the increased violence and odd happening in his neighborhood, suspects demonic foot soldiers are on the prowl in London.

THE FILM: Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess, Across the Universe) was born with a large heart-shaped facial birthmark. This disfigurement makes it difficult for James to feel part of normal society, he feels depressed and awkward. Lacking affection from the opposite sex he focuses his energies into photography. Sturgess’ portrayal of Jamie is very natural and convincing, underplayed, not too quirky. While on an evening photographic expedition he encounters a shrieking, demonic-faced youth wearing a hoodie. His encounter combined with reports of murderous masked figures brutally setting people aflame convinces Jim that something more than random acts of violence are occurring. Not long afterwards Jim and his mother are attacked; his mother dies a fiery death. James, wracked by grief, and in want of revenge, decides he must discover the truth behind the escalating violence and his mother gruesome death. His pursuit leads to a meeting with the dark figure known as Papa B (Joseph Mawle). James soon discovers that this character is seemingly the mastermind behind the recent plague of evil deeds. After a failed attempt to avenge his mother’s death James makes a Faustian Deal with Papa B, whom promises him that his disfiguring birthmark will disappear, in exchange for some minor acts of vandalism. As with all Faustian Deals, it’s not as black and white as it would appear. Along the way James falls in love with Tia (Clemence Poesy), and meets The Weapons Man, played in a brief, but scene stealing performance by Edie Marsan, it’s a great bit, played with humor, and it works.

DVD: HEARTLESS is filmed in high definition and it looks amazing. The 2.35:1 HD digital cinematography captures the urban sprawl of East London quite well .The film has been making the festival circuit; a DVD release is slated for October in the US. The Region 2 DVD is currently available.

VERDICT: HEARTLESS is a fantasy-horror film, a modern day Faustian-tale, and it’s played for realism, it is never so fantastic that I fell out the reality of the film. I was enraptured from start to finish. This is a haunting film; I was similarly affected upon my first viewing of DONNIE DARKO. The FX, both practical and CGI are well done, it’s not a splatter fest, but it is highly satisfying. I strongly recommend this film.
**** (4 out of 5 stars)