HEARTS AND BONES – Hugo Weaving Faces His Demons

Long time readers of Salty Popcorn will know that I’m a big advocate for supporting the Aussie film industry. With travel restrictions likely keeping us homebound for the next wee while, it’s a good time to think keep things local. Support small businesses – throw a coin to your local butcher and rent an Aussie film on home entertainment this week. The arts and film industry has been hit hard by this global pandemic. Where possible, consider spending your entertainment budget on locally produced gems like this one. This lockdown would feel a whole lot longer without the arts and entertainment industry soothing our boredom and passing the time.
Stay safe, wash your hands and support the arts.
– Kernel Claire

Hearts and Bones is Rated M. It released last year to the Sydney, Melbourne and Toronto film festivals to critical acclaim. It’s available for digital streaming from May 6th, and will be released on DVD on June 3rd. With a runtime of 110mins, it’s brought to you by the good people at Madman Entertainment.

Hugo Weaving as Daniel Fisher in Hearts and Bones

BY CLAIRE SMITH

SYNOPSIS:

Dan Fisher is a photojournalist tasked with photographing war-zones and their human impact across the globe. While preparing for an exhibit of his accumulated works, Sebastian, a Sudanese local pleads for Dan to exclude certain images from the collection. The images depict a massacre in Sebastian’s village and he’s not prepared to live through it again through the eyes of the privileged onlookers. Dan and Sebastian form a bond over their mutual PTSD suffering and new truths are revealed about the pair.

Hugo Weaving and Andrew Luri in Hearts and Bones

THE BOYS WITH THE BLUES:

Hugo Weaving (V FOR VENDETTA, THE LORD OF THE RINGS FRANCHISE) is always amazing. Whether he’s donning a frock for PRISCILLA: QUEEN OF THE DESERT, or blasting through hoards of cape-wearing Keanu’s in THE MATRIX, Weaving is perfection. HEARTS AND BONES is no exception. Daniel Fisher is a man battling with his demons. He’s woken by night terrors, he has memory loss and panic attacks from multiple IED impacts over decades at the job. He’s a broken man trying to find his way home. Weaving’s portrayal of the nuances of Fisher’s condition is deftly done. The inner struggle portrayed by Weaving draws you in to the storyline and holds your focus.

Accompanying Weaving is Andrew Luri in his debut performance as Sebastian Ahmed. Honestly – watching his performance, you would never know this was his first gig. Luri’s dramatic range is mammoth! This role of Sebastian is no small feat. Luri treads the boards with the confidence and ability of peers who have amassed years of experience under their belt. He wends his way through the manipulation of Sebastian’s story arc with subtle, saw-toothed variances in tone. No mean feat to achieve without feeling hokey or depraved. His motivations are relevant and present and deftly delivered to the story.

Hugo Weaving as Dan Fisher and Andrew Luri as Sebastian Ahmed

THE TEAM BEHIND THE SCENES:

Hugh Miller (SHERPA, MIRACLE ON EVEREST) has masterfully crafted the cinematography for this film. Dark and broody yet somehow vibrant with colour. The shots are purposeful, expressive and brilliant. Lighting is used to frame the characters or their environment as an extension of their emotional motifs. HEARTS AND BONES is so much more than the blandness of a “Shot/Reverse Shot” niche.

Sound design by Sam Hayward (THE GREAT GATSBY, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD) completely engulfs you and draws you in to the world of Dan Fisher. Sound Design is always best when it seems to be not done at all. Glimpses of sound amongst Dan’s dreams bring us into his world of suffering in his subconscious. Brooding low tones highlight an emotional outburst about to break free. Breathy whimpers accompany a Syrian child fleeing the scene of a photoshoot. Paired with the cinematography, it creates a world deep in focus which commands your attention.

Daniel Fisher from Sydney, Australia

THE (SLIGHTLY SAGGING) STORYLINE:

Written and directed by Ben Lawrence (GHOSTHUNTER, PAUL’S DREAM), HEARTS AND BONES is a slow burn. It sucks you in and holds you tight. It’s visceral, emphatic and truthful in both its storyline and its performances.

Hayley McElhinney (THE BABBADOOK, BLUE HEELERS) plays Josie, Dan’s long-term partner. Despite their tragic history, Dan and Josie learn that they’re soon expecting to welcome a new baby into the world. Josie ineffectually attempts to assist the reluctant Dan in his healing. McElhinney does a lot with a fairly narrow character arc. Josie seems mostly written to support Dan’s story, rather than to act as a stand alone character with her own motives and goals. Linearity aside, McElhinney displays raw emotion in her part. She’s got the chops, but the character could have achieved more if we’d had a secondary story in conjunction with Dan and Sebastian’s leading storyline.

This lack of a compelling and thorough B-story makes the film sag a little in its final acts. Although the through line is moving and masterful, a few snips here and there could have cut the runtime down. Alternatively a more thorough exploration of Josie’s plight and her points of view could have brought more depth to the characters while holding the run time. As it stands, the side characters mostly seem assembled to support the arc of either Dan or Sebastian. Not a big deal, but it does result in a noticeable lull in the delivery of the film’s messages.

Bolude Watson as Anishka Ahmed and Andrew Luri as Sebastian Ahmed

CONCLUSIONS:

HEARTS AND BONES is a little Aussie gem that’s worthy of your time. The performances are economical but profound. It’s a complete package. Although a little slow, at times, it’s impressively put together. Touching, moving, empowering. Support Aussie cinema and ISO-watch HEARTS AND BONES

KERNEL CLAIRE’S POP SCORE:

YOUR CRITIC:

Kernel Claire has been writing for Salty Popcorn since 2011 and has recently stepped in to the editor’s chair to help out with publishing the Kernel’s collective reviews. When not hand-modelling for Kernel Jason’s food-reviews, Claire can be found scootering through Sydney at a reasonable, defensive driving speed; or fussing far too much over her little black rescue cat Baxter.

Claire has worked in the Australian Cinema Industry for almost 20yrs and loves it the most when she can report “sometimes I get paid to watch movies”. She’ll pretty much attend any event that includes a lanyard.

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.