Saturday, May 29, 2010

Heartless (2009)

Heartless (2009) takes place in modern-day London, against a backdrop of gang violence and alienation. Jamie Morgan is a twenty-something photographer who lives in a house estate in London. A large birth mark on his face hsa stopped him developing meaningful relationships with women, while the death of his father has made his relationship with his mother emotionally critical.

After his mother is murdered in front of him, he meets a Mephistophelian character called Papa B, who offers to remove his birthmark in exchange for certain rather gruesome favours. He then he raises the ire of Papa B, who asks him to kill his newly-found girlfriend as compensation.

Heartless is atmospheric, and vibrantly chronicles the fears of modern day city-dwellers; gangs, guns and hoodies are the order of the day. Director Philip Ridley makes London unfriendly and positively dangerous to the outsider, and plays on the fear of hooded teenagers (even casting them as demonic figures).  While hinting at Hellraiser (which itself was inspired by Faust), the director adds his own themes of social isolation and alienation.  The movie also hints at hidden forces that control the spiraling descent of urban life into random, unexpected violence

Jim Sturgass plays Jamie with conviction; he convincingly transforms from a troubled young man afraid of showing his face, to someone brimming with confidence.  An emotionally poignant relationship with his mother is very well played by both actors

A few hokey special effect (including an vaguely unconvincing full body burn suit) made me shrug my shoulders, and a twist concerning the motives of Jamie's girlfriend and nephew are not well integrated into the primary plot.  One element had me vaguely puzzled - a young Indian girl in a Sari who Jamie met through Papa B inexplicably starts calling him Dad.

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