Tuesday, October 14, 2014


HUNGRY HEARTS makes a superb companion piece to Susanne Bier’s A SECOND CHANCE. Both films are concerned with presenting mothers that challenge our prejudices of good parenting and both contain a slow build of frustration and pent up emotion that prompt ordinary people to take extreme steps. Moreover, both films are exceptionally well made and acted - provocative and insightful.

In HUNGRY HEARTS the focus is on a young couple played by Alba Rohrwacher and Adam Driver (GIRLS). They meet cute - I mean - it’s the ultimately nauseating cute way to meet - and proceed quickly through a picture-perfect marriage to pregnancy. And here the cracks appear. The wife becomes intensely phobic of doctors, refuses to eat enough to nourish the baby, and almost sabotages the birth. And then, once the baby is born, she becomes so overprotective against the apparent menaces of processed food and germs that the baby barely gains weight. An increasingly frustrated husband is caught between concern for his son and his enduring love for his wife, and ultimately the film resolves itself in how which way he eventually jumps on that question and the social context of judgment around both sides.

What is impressive about this film is just how sinister the apparently waif-like wife becomes and how claustrophobic the apartment is - aided by sparing but powerful use of a fish-eye lens. Both actors do a great job but I have particular respect for Adam Driver who manages to credibly appear concerned for both parties when many people in the audience, myself included, would have gladly slapped the mother, stolen the child and headed for the hills. Of course, as the movie goes on we realise that she is genuinely mentally ill and so some sympathy returns. But it’s fascinating how an arthourse audience - usually very willing to say the grey shades of morality - found it hard to sympathise with her even at the end. Mistreating a baby is apparently the moral top trumps.

This may or may not be a problem for the film. Is it possible to enjoy a film when you spend most of its runtime wanting to commit a violent act against its central character and increasingly disliking its other lead character for enabling her? I noticed a handful of people walk out and I suspect that may have been the problem. In a sense, the director Saverio Constanzo (IN MEMORY OF ME) is a victim of his own success - creating an atmosphere so toxic it’s almost unbearable. For those reasons I suspect this film will be a tough sell, which is a shame. Moreover, it’s fantastic to see Adam Driver given the range to be very impressive indeed.

HUNGRY HEARTS has a running time of 109 minutes.  The movie played Venice, where the lead actors well-deservedly won the Volpi Cup for Best Acting, London and Toronto 2014. It does not yet have a commercial release date.

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