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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 5.26%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 31.58%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 1 rating

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by Jay Seaver

"Beautiful horror."
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2010 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Midway through "Heartless", one may feel that it has lost its considerable edge; that a movie which starts out so grim and despairing has no business becoming quirky and even occasionally light-hearted. But deals with the devil must have some appeal; otherwise, would we believe that the deal would be made?

Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess) is a nice young man, although he tends to hide himself away in his mother's flat due to a number of unsightly birthmarks, including a heart-shaped one that covers half his face. He loves photography - something he inherited from his late father (Timothy Spall) - and works in a studio with his brother Raymond (Justin Salinger). He lives in a bad part of the city, but just as his world is rocked by a horrific act of violence, a mysterious phone call leads him to "Papa B" (Joseph Mawle), who offers him good looks in return for a few small acts of chaos. Jamie accepts, and is soon makes the acquaintance of two new people: Tia (Clémence Poésy), a pretty girl who had come to the studio for glamor shots but is far more comfortable dressed down, and "The Weapons Man" (Eddie Marsan), who will give him the unpleasant truth about just what he's agreed to.

The opening scenes of Heartless are an excellent mix of the tense and matter-of-fact, communicating both the fear generated in living in an area where violence is an all-too-frequent occurrence and the need to live an everyday life. The world seems to get darker and darker, slowly closing in on Jamie and the viewer audience until the outdoors feels more claustrophobic than the inside. Writer/director Philip Ridley wastes little time here: We are quickly able to understand the city's malaise in purely human terms, but a supernatural element is also introduced fairly quickly. It's a nifty combination of cinematography and effects work, too - I spent a few moments admiring how the filmmakers were making something conventional look demonic in the shadows before it jumped out as an actual demon.

Throughout the movie, Ridley finds a number of unique ways to creep the audience out. Jamie's initial meeting with Papa B is filled with tension, and also features one of the best uses of mobile phones in a horror movie. Eddie Marsan has a blackly comic scene with Sturgess that explicitly comments on this, actually - we often see the forces of evil shun modernity, but Heartless has them fully integrated into the modern connected world. And then there's little Nikita Mistry as a girl who, despite her connection to Papa B, seems good, but becomes quite scary even if she seems more driven by desperation than malice.

The movie lightens up in the middle, but never completely. The scenes between Sturgess and Poésy are uplifting and joyful, a fantastic respite from the previous air of misery. Both are enormously charming, and the feeling of liberation that initially comes over Jamie is one that spreads to the audience. It's a delightful, pure love, one that brightens up the screen even as it is intercut with more horrific images, and even as those two threads merge.

And merge they must - though the devil can give you everything you want, he doesn't do it for free. The way Ridley brings his stories to a head is jarring at times, and maybe involves a trick or two that the film often seemed to be above, but it has a dark beauty as it appears on screen. The film shines that way; Ridley and company have given great attention to each piece, from the perfect lighting to the songs that Ridley co-wrote.

It's not often that one comes out of a horror movie feeling like one has seen something beautiful, but "Heartless" manages that rare trick.

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originally posted: 07/16/10 22:21:48
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

6/05/10 Ronald Holst If you enjoy Horro You will love this ! 4 stars
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  19-Nov-2010 (NR)

  21-May-2010 (18)


Directed by
  Philip Ridley

Written by
  Philip Ridley

  Jim Sturgess
  Timothy Spall
  Eddie Marsan
  Clémence Poésy

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