Review by Jack Foley
PHILIP Ridley’s Heartless is an ambitious ‘urban fairy tale/horror’ that fails to completely measure up to the sum of its parts, despite some interesting ideas and design.
On the plus side, the film boasts a vivid and richly drawn sense of imagination (as befitting the director’s previous work, including The Reflecting Skin), as well as a strong cast (Jim Sturgess, Eddie Marsan, Timothy Spall, etc).
But it’s badly let down by some of its more bizarre elements and an inconclusive, overly muddled ending that’s bound to leave the majority of people who see it disappointed.
The story follows melancholy photographer Jamie Morgan (Sturgess), a man born with a disfiguring birthmark on his face, as he begins to believe that London’s ‘hoodies’ are actually masked demons.
In doing so, he must try to protect his mother while starting a tentative relationship with the similarly fragile Tia (Clémence Poésy).
But after making a Faustian pact with a shady character named Papa B (Joseph Mawle), the line between Jamie’s reality and an alternative nightmare world begins to blur and he finds himself being driven to increasingly violent acts.
Heartless debuted at last year’s Frightfest, where it amassed a cult following and has been developing a strong Internet following ever since.
But while there’s plenty going on, the film lacks any lasting emotional value and left me feeling cold.
Ridley claims to have been partly inspired to write the story by the youths he has recently been working with, whose world view keeps changing, and this sense of unease and uncertainty is reflected in Sturgess’ brilliant central performance.
The deliverate mix of genres also ensures that viewers are kept on their toes, while Ridley’s depiction of London’s East End is as vibrant as he had been seeking to achieve.
Horror buffs will lap up some of the more hardcore violence, as well as some of the shocks, but in the main this is a dark, twisted, overly complex psychological chiller that failed to add up to a satisfying whole.
Running time: 114mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: May 24, 2010