Jamie is a quiet, lonely bloke that lives with his mother in the fast decaying, crime-ridden streets of East London and works for his brother and nephew in a photography studio. Despite his desire to meet a girl and marry, most are unwilling to even look at him because of his startling appearance, marked by a massive birthmark on his face in the shape of a heart.
When a gang wearing demon masks appears at night on the streets of his neighborhood, bringing with them chaos and murder, events begin spiraling out of control forcing Jamie into a confrontation with the gang’s leader, a sinister man named Mister B. The terrifying gang leader offers the scared young man two choices, accept a gracious offer to help Jamie achieve his heart’s desire or face the wrath of the demonic anarchists stalking the streets. With Jamie’s own mother and neighbor fallen victim to Mister B’s crew, his choice may be clear.
After eagerly waiting since first seeing The Reflecting Skin almost 16 years ago, I’ve finally had the chance to see a new Philip Ridley film and what a grand experience it was! Ridley knows drama, the fears and insecurities of everyday living, and he knows his horror, especially the kind of horror that speaks to the very things that make us tick, good and bad. He knows how to craft real characters, the kind we can relate to and sympathize with. It’s certainly fair to say that Ridley’s style borders on experimental or arthouse at times but never so much so that his concept is bogged down by pretentious style or poetic drivel.
The character of Jamie played by UK actor Jim Sturgess was incredibly fascinating, his torment was palpable, you fully understood why he was damaged. Sturgess brought the kind of vulnerability to his role that very few actors would be capable of achieving. I’m sure Ridley’s ability to bring out the best his actors’ performances had quite a bit to do with it but many props to Sturgess nonetheless for carrying such a unique film and role on his shoulders.
Heartless is indeed a horror film but an odd one, about as odd as one might expect coming from this particular filmmaker, which is to be expected I suppose. He seems to have a sensibility for these kinds of offbeat, thought-provoking films. Would you expect anything less from the man who made The Reflecting Skin and The Passion of Darkly Noon?
If ever there was an interesting, effective urban horror film, Heartless is it. The locations are dirty and authentic, the graffiti threatens to swallow viewers whole with its bright and unsettling colors and the protagonists…well…you’ll just have to see them for yourself to really appreciate them. Honestly there are only two films that even come close to being as successful as this when it comes to urban horror, Glenn Standring’s The Irrefutable Truth About Demons and Kamal Ahmed’s Rapturious.
Some are going to be blown away with Heartless, others may hate it, I’m one of the former. I highly recommend those that enjoy “Thinking Man’s Horror” check this out. I look forward to more Philip Ridley in the future, let’s just hope this sees an actual DVD release here in the states, unlike the tragically under-appreciated The Reflecting Skin and The Passion of Darkly Noon.