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Film Three Stars
The premise of Heartless gave little away and wasn't pitching itself in one specific direction. It sounded like a thriller with elements of horror, reading the blurb and the festival material I was thinking of something more akin to a British Jacobs Ladder perhaps, and that initial thought wasn't too far off the mark.

It sounded like an interesting story, and with Jim Sturgess leading, Noel Clarke supporting and Philip Ridley, the writer of The Krays, writing and directing, I thought that we might see a rather interesting horror-thriller.

So, with the first film of the 2010 Glasgow Film Festival for me, let's see how the screening went.

Plot.pngThe film follows the character of Jamie Morgan, played by Jim Sturgess, who has been born with a huge birthmark down his face, neck, body and left arm. The mark on his face is in the shape of a heart, which ties in nicely to the film title and a lot of the imagery throughout.

He discovers that on the streets of London there be demons, creatures roaming in gangs intent on killing and causing chaos, and before he knows it he's embroiled in the darker, more supernatural events.

TheFilm.pngHeartless.jpgFrom early on I, about the time I saw the first devil, it popped right into my head how this story might play out, and come the end I was spot on. However I have to say, despite knowing that it didn't spoil the ending of the film.

When the reveal came it felt like a moment of relief to see it happen rather than delivering something more outlandish, although it was a little disheartening to see it actually come to fruition. You'll know what I mean when you watch it yourself.

The rest of the film should really provide the convincing distraction from that final reveal, however the idea we've seen a number of times comes straight to the fore, and the clues provided through the film are a bit too obvious for someone who has seen similar ideas in film before.

There are other twists and turns in the film that compensate for the feeling that you might have treated the main surprise before, and there's one major one I really didn't see coming which did deliver that end surprise. It was a strong twist and surprise in the story, however I did feel as though it was overshadowed by the rest of the film, a film which proved to be a real mixed bag.

Heartless does start off well though, and there are quite a few times throughout the film when the main plot is revisited and you feel that there's a strength to the story and something more interesting within reach, but it isn't quite within grasp and doesn't feel as though it delivers all that it could be.

There are some rather different styles to the film such as, the demons, the Papa B plot, the relationships with friends and neighbour, the love story, and the comedic section, all of which make it feel a little fractured, not quite keeping the plots tied in well enough to flow forward as one film.

That said, the different threads are delivered well. The comedy section raised a good few laughs and descends into rather unnerving horror very well, as do the comic moments with the Weapons Man, and the Papa B plot is an interesting one but could have been exploited and examined more closely with less Matrix-esque philosophy.

Jim Sturgess gives a good, believable performance that has you feeling his confusion and pain throughout, although I was getting a little irritated as his continual gawping. He's also surrounded by actors giving equally good performances, Eddie Marsan, Joseph Mawle, and Clémence Poésy are the stand out characters and performances for me, and of course there's Noel Clarke in the film too, a man who seems to be in everything British and independent just now.

One of the strengths of the film, apart from the performances, is the building of the characters and relationships. There's an understanding here that even the horror sequences won't really work unless you have something invested in the characters and their relationships. It's something that Hollywood is forever forsaking for action, and here we see a strong concentration on this aspect over the rest of the film.

To that end we get stronger and more realistic characters that seem to have real lives and real connections that help us identify and connect with them. This makes the horror more horrific, the surprises more surprising, and the tension more tense, because we feel for the characters.

The opening of the film seemed rather heavy handed with the scares and tension building music, indeed it felt a number of times that it was overpowering the film when it should have been much more subtle. For the rest of the film it is well shot, but I would like to see a slightly different edit that perhaps reigned in the pace to allow for more story development, more character development, and allowing the different threads of the film to be connected and flow together more easily.

My favourite scene is the one with the Weapons Man, that really was amusing but kept the story moving forward, allowing the audience to laugh but still keeping sight of the main plot, something I felt didn't quite work with the kitchen murder, but which gave an equal amount of laughs.

The effects were really well done, from that kitchen scene through to the demon's faces, they all looked like Hollywood effects, feeling much more than the film should be delivering.

The ultimate ending is very interesting and does make you think back on the rest of the film, and by the ending I mean the lead character's final understanding and his own look back through the events of the story.

Overall.pngHeartless is an interesting film that does promise, and deliver, a great deal. Although it feels disjointed at times, it's a strong thriller that has some interesting supernatural elements, horror, and some laughs. The problem I found was that it tried to deliver this all in one film and didn't do a fantastic job of merging them all in together into a seamless film.

Despite that, it builds itself well on a reality based story, offering some believable threads through some more supernatural elements. The acting is good, the character development strong, and it manages to deliver an interesting, engaging and thought provoking story that comes around with some nice twists and delivers a satisfying and moralistic ending to the film.

Buy from Amazon UK or Amazon US
UK IMDB Film Details



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