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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Heartless (2010)

It's a tight rope to walk when trying to create a fairytale for adults. Sure we've had some attempts that have managed to pull it off effortlessly, who can deny the power and beauty of Geillermo del Toro's  Pan's Labyrinth? But for every Pan's Labyrinth we also have Snow White: A Tale of Terror or Rumpelstiltskin to contend with. As fun and cheesy as Rumpelstiltskin is, it fails to have the desired effect of all fairy tales; that of caution and distrust. Philip Ridley however has made a welcome return to film-making with a triumphant new fairytale that hits it's marks perfectly and gives us yet another gripping adult fairytale that ranks as horrific and affecting as anything in Pan's Labyrinth.

Jamie (Jim Sturgess) is an east-end photographer haunted by his birthmark. A large, heart-shaped blemish covering most of the left side of his face, it is the cause of much ridicule that is the creator of the introverted, shy man he is today. With news reports of escalating incidents of random violence carried out by hooded youngsters wearing demon-like masks. One night, he and his mother are attacked by this gang and his mother is murdered, swearing revenge Jamie set out to find who is responsible for his mothers death. Once he meets the sinister Papa B (Joseph Mawle) however, Jamie is offered everything he longs for, all he has to do is re-pay Papa B back when he asks him to. Needless to say, he's in for more than he bargained for.

What makes Heartless such a rewarding film is it's layers. I've given a brief outline of the film, but to know more would likely ruin it's twisted charm and appeal. This is a movie that was designed for repeat viewings, it's secrets aren't going to be revealed to you on first viewing; you have to re-visit and re-evaluate the film with the knowledge acquired upon previous viewings. Everything shot in this film applied itself to the character of Jamie, from the films colour scheme to the actual locations, each symbolize an aspect of understanding Jamie; even the belongings in his home add characterisation. It's also here where the fairytale aspect creeps in as Jamie's room is contains paintings of such classics as Beauty and the Beast and Peter Pan.

As hard as director Ridley has been working behind the camera with his crew for the film unique look, none of that hard work would have been futile hadn't the cast been up to snuff. Luckily Ridley has been blessed with a fine supporting cast to help aide Sturgess, who himself has given his best performance to date her. Timothy Spall and Ruth Sheen both give heartfelt turns here as Jamie's parents, while Eddie Marsan and Joseph Mawle provide the necessary malice the film needs. Clémence Poésy and Noel Clarke round the cast as Jamie's friend and love interest; both give memorable performances and Poésy provides the film with a welcome glimpse of light and softness.

Heartless is a dark film, not just visually but the subject matters the film covers are equally as heavy on the senses. It's not a happy film, situations spiral from bad to worse and just like all good fairy tales, no one will make it out intact, and this goes for the audience too. This is also the films biggest flaw, it's a cold film and may distract viewers from coming back to it and giving it the essential second viewing; where you'll find yourself re-watching the film while discovering another. Philip Ridley has returned to film-making with a bang, this is tough-as-nails stuff that's excellently acted by its ensemble cast and a welcome return to one of British cinemas reclusive talents. Here's hoping we don't have to wait 15 years for the next one!

You can buy Heartless on Blu-ray or DVD now!

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