Ah, Valentine’s Day. A time for warm embraces and couples sharing their love. I hope all of our readers here at Children of the Blazing Fist are having as much of a great day as any of us will ever have. Considering today is actually the fifteenth of February, the day after you hopeless romantics or those who just had yesterday to themselves, for we are not in the business of love (since our name would make a crappy name for a dating site). Released by IFC in 2009, Heartless takes a look into loneliness and the need for social interaction.
Philip Ridley is the writer-director for Heartless; which he has done for several other films such as, The Reflecting Skin and The Passion of Darkly Noon. Even though Ridley does not have much experience in the movie industry he has written for numerous other mediums like writing books like Kasper In The Glitter, theater like Mercury Fur, radio plays like Shambolic Rainbow, to even a few songs. Ridley also has his hand dipped in photography, which plays an important role in Heartless.
Heartless takes place in the East End of London and follows our main character Jamie Morgan. Jamie works at a photography studio with his brother, Raymond, and his nephew Lee. What makes Jamie so unique is the heart shaped birthmark that covers his entire left eye; with bits of his face (later on we find out this includes a good portion of his left arm). This has caused him to be a bit of a shut in and spends his free time roaming the streets taking photographs with his film camera.
Heartless starts with Jamie out at the dead of night roaming and finding interesting places to shoot when he see a hooded stranger off in the distance. He decides to follow the figure out of peaked curiosity and stumbles upon more figures hooded in black throwing Molotov cocktails at the ground (all the while letting out horrible shrieks that no human could ever make). Deciding that know would be a good time to snap a quick picture, his camera alerts the group to his presence and they turn and advance towards him slowly. One of them manages to get to the wood fence separating Jamie from the group where it is revealed that his face and presumably the other gang members too are lizard like monsters. Obviously being scared Jamie, darts away safety at his friend’s convenience store.
Later on while watching the news, Jamie learns that a new gang has risen in the bad parts of town and start causing all sorts of crime and chaos. Time passes and Jamie visits a rundown part of East End with a matching apartment. To say it is run down is an understatement; the whole unit look like someone took a flame thrower and went on a spree. Jamie meets Papa B, the sleazy leader of this new gang, and Bell his young and innocent assistant. Jamie wants nothing more than a normal life, and feels that getting rid of his horrendous scares will grant him that relief. Papa B promises to grant Jamie his deepest desire as long as he upholds the deal and spreads chaos. Before any of this can happen Jamie must be reborn, in fire no less, to become a new person. Papa B takes a Molotov cocktail and throws it at Jamie’s feet and the flames engulf his entire body. When Jamie wakes up the next morning his whole entire body is burned to nearly a crisp and his skin becomes a cocoon. He starts to peal off the charred skin like a snake and emerges with his scares removed and happy. After Jamie’s wish, the next day he meets Tia, a young girl who earlier in was working as a model for Jamie’s brother Raymond who helps live out his new confidence.
I noticed that Heartless has ever contrasting lighting throughout its length. At first I thought it was coincidence and just by chance, but as I sat and continued, I picked up on the hints and saw what they were doing. Heartless shifts from extreme dark to light mostly in the first and second acts, such as in the beginning of the film where in Jamie is on the streets at night to extreme brightness the next morning, with high contrast nearly blinding me. Later on Jamie talks to what seems like his only friend in the film and next door neighbor, A.J., about having two parallel lives. One where he feels happy and normal and is not judge and the other it is dark and he is either depressed, angry, or feels like a monster because of the scar on his face. Normally when Jamie is happy in the movie, whether it is in a flash back or with his family it is very bright with high contrast, and the flip side, when his is down and alone the lighting will be mostly dark. This will happen consecutively throughout the whole film. Later on when Jamie is truly happy and interesting thing happens to the lighting, it will shift to normal, where it is not over powered.
Pros: The soundtrack for Heartless is something to note, with Jim Sturgess singing two of the tracks. People who know him from Across the Universe will be no stranger to him singing.
Cons: Watching Heartless for the first time, I felt the film to be rather slow. It is not that the plot or pace that drags on, but it has some natural feel of taking longer than it does.
Heartless is an interesting film and was not at all what I expected from what was on the cover which looks like a horror film with lots of blood and gore. Heartless is a dark film that looks into the human condition of isolation and the need for interaction, and I would recommend watching it.