Describing a movie in terms of another, more successful
film seems to be, if not the kiss of death, at least a sign that the
film in question may not live up to its marketing. I still remember
an advertisement for a now-mercifully-forgotten action film that
trumpeted its identity as "Die Hard on a ship!"
Heartlands doesn't venture into that realm of marketing
idiocy, but its enthusiastic claim of being "In the feel-good
style of The Full Monty!" leaves something to be desired.
About the only thing that Heartlands has in common with The
Full Monty is that its characters are working-class Brits with
troubled lives. Heartlands isn't even really a comedy (or
worse, if it's trying to be a comedy, I didn't notice.).
Heartlands focuses on Colin (Michael Sheen), the owner of a
small newsstand along with his wife Sandra (Jane Robbins). It's
immediately evident that Colin's life is one of very narrow horizons:
waiting, bored, for customers in his shop; hanging out at the local
pub with his pals. It's no wonder that Sandra decides she's had
enough and takes off with one of Colin's friends. This shock to
Colin's settled existence is finally enough to pull him out of his
routine, and he sets off on his scooter to find Sandra. And although
it takes nearly a third of Heartlands' 90-minute running time
to get him this far, it's Colin's journey, and what he learns about
himself on it, that is really the point of the film.
The trouble is that it's hard to really care about Colin, or for that
matter, about anybody in the film. None of the characters are
particularly interesting or sympathetic. There's really no humor to
be found here, but not much drama, either; there's just not much
reason to follow Colin on his journey with any particular attention.
I suspect that director Damien O'Donnell was trying to give viewers a
glimpse of the narrow, often difficult lives of ordinary working
people, but we never see anything beyond the surface, even with
Colin. Who are these people, and why should we care about their
emotional lives? That's a question that's never resolved
satisfactorily in Heartlands.
To its credit, Heartlands does wrap up with an ending that
surprised me, as it opts not to take any of the more conventional
paths that I'd have expected it to take. Even so, the conclusion
isn't entirely convincing; Sheen and Robbins do their best to make
their final scene work, but it just doesn't click.
handling of this title makes me suspect it was a definite back-burner
release. While the film does get an anamorphic treatment (it appears
in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio), it's an otherwise fairly bland
transfer. The opening credits are in very poor condition for a 2002
film, and while the numerous speckles and dirt on the print are
reduced in number once the main film starts, it's far from clean
overall. Edge enhancement is very much in evidence, and a substantial
amount of grain appears in low-light scenes.
The soundtrack here is a Dolby 5.1, though you wouldn't really be
able to tell; there's minimal use of the surround channels. The
dialogue is carried reasonably well, with the actors generally
sounding clear, and there's no noise or distortion in the track.
Still, some of the scenes sound flat, and at times the volume seems
to dip down too low.
The only special feature is a trailer for Jersey Girl.
can best be described as a rather bland film. It doesn't have
anything particular wrong with it, as it's competently made and
acted; nonetheless, it lacks a real hook for the viewer to make it a
compelling story. It's probably an adequate rental, but that's about