Undiscovered Treasure: HEARTLESS

WhatCulture! was very kindly invited to London’s Soho Hotel last Thursday night for a screening of the 2009 release Heartless, followed by a Q+A with the films director, Phillip Ridley.

The good fellows over at Empire Magazine and Tiger Beer are currently in the midst of an undiscovered treasures season that sets out to champion films that they feel were unfairly overlooked at the time of release and perhaps deserve another chance. As part of this, WhatCulture! was very kindly invited to London€™s Soho Hotel last Thursday night for a screening of the 2009 release Heartless, followed by a Q+A with the films director, Phillip Ridley. I have to be honest, I am one of the many who gave Heartless a wide berth upon it€™s release due to the fact that, to start with, I€™m not the biggest horror fan in the world and secondly the marketing just didn€™t make it seem appealing enough. Having now seen the film, what we actually have on our hands is a very disturbing blend of Angel Heart and Donnie Darko set against the backdrop of broken Britain. Jim Sturgess plays Jamie, and awkward and introverted twenty-something, who is afflicted by a large heart shaped birthmark on the side of his face. Socially awkward, Jamie only really opens up to his beloved Mum and is still wounded by the death of his father ten years previously. When he discovers that the local hoodies aren€™t wearing demon masks but are in fact real demons, he ends up on a dark and dangerous path that leads him making a shady Faustian deal with the mysterious Papa B. What follows is an absolute bonkers, head fuck of a film and whilst not perfect by any means, it certainly grabs you by the balls and packs in some genuine scares along with some rather touching moments also. With much being made at the moment about the crop of young British Male Actors like Daniel Radcliffe, Robert Pattinson and Andrew Garfield ruling the box-office roost, on this evidence there€™s no doubt that were you to put them in an acting competition with Jim Sturgess there could surely only be one winner. He is simply superb in Heartless and imbues his character with enough pathos and danger that leaves you unable to take your eyes off of him. His gangly awkwardness and slightly unhinged mental state really do have echoes of Jake Gyllenhaal€™s Donnie. What is most impressive about Heartless is the fact that the total budget came in at around £2.5 million and to shoot a genre movie such as this for that amount in the UK really is a tour-de-force. In fact, it€™s a shame that more low-budget British films don€™t show the same narrative ambitions. One last thing that makes the film more than watchable, and deserves a mention, is Eddie Marsan as the Weapons Man. It would be unfair to reveal too much about his role, but if ever there was a character that deserves a spin-off, then he€™s right here. Should any of what I have just said pique your interest, beware, Heartless isn€™t something that you can just watch and pass the time with. It will get underneath your skin and make you think about it. In the Q+A that followed, I asked director Philip Ridley if he was ever under any pressure from the producers or distributors to cut the film, which gets very gruesome in places, for a 15 certificate that would open up the possibility of it being seen by a wider audience. He laughed and said that there was some mention of it. Producer Pippa Cross then pitched in to take over the question and said that actually, whilst they did at one point consider cutting it for the 15 certificate, they decided to stick to the film that they were making and stand by the fact that it is this head fuck of a film and embrace all of it€™s darkness. I was actually quite impressed to hear this coming from the mouth of a producer, as normally you€™d think that they would sell their soul in exchange for box office success€ So, if you are thinking about checking out Heartless out for the first time, take comfort in the fact that it hasn€™t been dumbed down for commercial gain. You€™re seeing the twisted, genre hopping, Brit horror flick exactly as it was intended.

Harry Roth hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.