Directed by Ben Lawrence
Starring Hugo Weaving, Andrew Luri, Hayley McElhinney
The aftermath of war for a photographer and a villager is explored in Hearts and Bones. While it is an intelligent film about immigration at its core, it shows a predictable and standard relationship in its two leading characters.
Traumatised conflict zone photographer Dan Fischer (Hugo Weaving) is set to have his work put in an upcoming exhibition. After an appearance promoting it on radio, he is approached by the hard-working and modest Sebastian (Andrew Luri) and asked not to publicly reveal photos of his village in Sudan. Dan is invited along to Sebastian’s choir group session, and Dan even helps him with moving into his new house with his family – but the reasons for Sebastian’s request soon come to light.
The message the film is attempting to achieve is highly admirable. It clearly shows how a person’s environment can ruthlessly shape their character, which highlights the changes immigrants go through moving from one culture to another. But Hearts and Bones seems clumsy handling how to integrate this theme into its story, particularly when it rushes its key moment, defusing what tension it could’ve had.
Weaving conveys a scraggy and assured appearance and demeanour that suggests the hell of his profession billowing inside – there seems to be a decent amount of intensity within, but all of that trauma is simply left ambiguous. His relationship seems to go through some fairly predictable moments of ebbing and flowing, highs and lows, that always seems to be petering in the middle, with this plot-line so predictable it never really challenges us.
For a film about such an important topic, Hearts and Bones seems unfocused as it ambles through domestic family asides, only to rush through the more important story points. The wives of both Dan and Sebastian are both pregnant, which gets discussed a fair amount, though doesn’t seem to pay off in much of a satisfying way – the film suggests a kind of optimism for future generations, but doesn’t relate this to the kids of these characters.
With little to excite in the cinematography or music as, Hearts and Bones doesn’t elevate its poignant material to an above standard level, despite what Weaving brings to his role. It’s a film that can get a timely conversation started about how people change as they go through large geographical change, but it hasn’t been rendered interestingly enough in this film’s safe and regular approach.
Hearts and Bones is now available on VOD.