Thursday, 17 November 2011

Heartless, dir/wr. Philip Ridley, st. Jim Sturgess, Joseph Mawle, Noel Clarke, Clémence Poésy, Timothy Spall

What to make of 2009's Heartless, an urban Faustian fairytale set in London's East End that liberally borrows from an impressively eclectic set of literary and cinematic tropes and conventions and packages them in some kind of early 90's Screen One BBC drama-cum-70's-era Cronenbergian B-movie? On the one hand it's rather trite to say Ridley's film defies convention, but it's at a deeper, molecular level where things really start to get complicated: sometime during the claustrophobic, hallucinatory horror there's a disconcertingly random yet inspired comic walk-on part by Eddie Marsan; Sturgess' protagonist Jamie Morgan's courtship of Poésy's Tia is at first forgettably quixotic and then turns on a dime in a simple first-kiss-after-first-date scene on the London Underground into something wondrous; Mawle's Louis Cyphre-channeled Papa B comes off as all empty-threated and goth-costumed until he starts biting chunks out of Noel Clarke's disembodied head, at which point HOLY CHRIST do you start taking him seriously. What do all these stylistic non-sequitors add up to? Something genuinely unique actually. It's messy and confused and heavy-handed in its redemption-through-familial-love narrative fulcrum, but it all hangs together when it clearly shouldn't, and that in itself makes this a laudable watch. Bizarre, but laudable.