Reclusive Londoner Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess), who bears a prominent, heart-shaped birthmark on his face yet can’t seem to find love anywhere, makes a deal with a devil-like figure to get a girl — but there’s a deadly price to pay. After his mother is murdered, the newspapers say thugs wearing devil masks committed the crime. But Jamie soon begins to suspect that they weren’t wearing masks at all.
Rating: 8 out of 10
“Love is only temporary but suffering is eternal.” -Papa B. in the film Heartless
Heartless is a very special film containing the most original visual work I have seen in a film since “Black Swan.” I love films where the camera is as much a character as the principle actors. Director Philip Ridley doesn’t just place actors on a set and have them exchange dialogue until they move onto the next scene. He paints a picture here that perfectly encapsulates the mood of each individual segment. When demons are lurking, committing atrocities, or tempting the main character, we not only feel but see the bleakness, despair, darkness, and anger. Conversely, the romantic and loving elements are obviously quite the opposite but are just as, if not more, effective. He changes the style completely to a washed out and bright world that feels like you’re touching heaven.
The story itself is a Faustian tale with its own surprises and twists along the way. I have always enjoyed when a character that has a good heart is given a chance at getting what he wants the easy way by having to commit evil deeds. Does he take the opportunity despite the steep costs? What deeds must he perform? How does it affect the other characters around him? It’s a formula that can be very good or very bad depending on the skills of the director and actors involved. Luckily, the script here works almost as well as the visual style. These characters really come alive in Ridley’s world and pulled me in. I cared what happened to them. I suppose much of the credit for that has to be given to Jim Sturgess who is brilliant in the main role. He goes through myriad changes from the beginning to the end of the film and our hearts break or are lifted up by him. Are there missteps? There’s a few. The setup is so amazing that I’m sure the final act was hard to pull off no matter what they did. I didn’t feel the same satisfaction as I did during the setup. Without giving away any spoilers, the last 10 minutes wrapped up a bit too quickly. I felt a bit more explanation was necessary considering the amount of questions that had been left open. Is it a perfect film? No, but it’s damn good and for anyone that enjoys a dark moral fable, I highly recommend it.
The life of hot-tempered teen outcast Mia (Katie Jarvis) takes an unexpected turn when her mother, Joanne (Kierston Wareing), brings home a handsome and mysterious boyfriend named Connor (Michael Fassbender), who pledges to bring sweeping positive changes to the household. British writer-director Andrea Arnold’s sophomore feature won Best British Film at the 2010 BAFTAs.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Fish Tank has a wonderful correlation that runs through the entire film. The main character, 15-year-old Mia, is troubled because her small world is changing. She no longer has a good relationship with her mother or sister, she has no girlfriends, and anytime she leaves her home is constantly in conflict with others.
At one point, she bumps into a rundown trailer park where she sees an old horse on its last legs. She becomes protective of the horse and demands the owner’s take better care of the animal. As the story progresses, the horse gets sicker and sicker and Mia’s life gets more and more complicated and confusing. I realized that the horse was a symbol of her lost innocence. What better way to capture the end of childhood than a sick horse ready to be put down? All girls dream unrealistic dreams when they are young. They want to be a princess, marry a prince, and ride away in the sunset on their pony. So, what does a young girl do during a time when everything they knew isn’t as it seemed and the world grows darker and colder by the minute? They hold onto a hope for something better and Mia is no different. Her passion is for dance and the way it takes her away to a better place in her mind. There are several wonderful scenes where she dances alone in an apartment building to her music and you can feel what it means to her. The emotional connection I felt was largely due to the wonderful performance by Katie Jarvis in the lead. Her scenes are never forced or overacted. They play out eloquently and in service to the story.
Is everything perfect here? No. While I really enjoyed Mia’s story, there was a sense that there could have been more character interaction. Mia’s mother and sister are largely wasted as after thoughts when they could have been central in how Mia faces the challenges she does (I won’t spoil them here). “Fish Tank” is wonderful at presenting confusion but does very little in resolving it. Some viewers would call that a strength but I consider it a weakness. Some filmmakers like to leave a lot open ended to let the viewer imagine what could or should have happened to the characters. But, it’s not about what I think should happen to Mia. That’s the storyteller’s job and they let me down a little near the end. But, for those that like cerebral coming of age stories, Fish Tank is a must see.
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