Set in 1930s London, The Heart of Me is a story about falling
in love, keeping promises, and, ultimately, forgiveness. Sisters
Dinah (Helena Bonham Carter) and Madeline (Olivia Williams) are very
different; Madeline values security and the glamor of society, while
Dinah embraces a Bohemian, devil-may-care lifestyle. What links them
together, however, is Madeline's husband Rickie (Paul Bettany), who
falls in love with Dinah and begins a passionate but dangerous
The Heart of Me isn't a totally successful film, but it has a
number of strong points that make it worth watching. To begin with,
the cast is solid, with Helena Bonham Carter and Olivia Williams in
particular (as the two sisters) creating quite believable characters.
The production overall is quite polished, with 1930s and 1940s London
evoked very effectively.
Apart from its overall polish, one of the things that sets The
Heart of Me a bit above a standard "romantic triangle"
story is is interesting structure. After developing the story in the
1930s, the film cuts to Dinah and Madeline ten years later. Clearly
some things have changed, and changed dramatically, but we don't
quite know what. After that, the film alternates between short
segments of the 1940s scene, with Dinah and Madeline struggling to
come to terms, and the continuation of the 1930s story, in which we
learn the details of what happened to all of them. There aren't any
great twists or shocking revelations, but neither is the story
entirely predictable, and the contrast of "before" and
"after" makes for a richer story than if it had been told
in strict chronological order.
At 96 minutes, The Heart of Me runs short enough that it
occasionally feels abrupt, most notably in the part of the story that
deals with Rickie and Dinah starting their affair, but also at a few
other points in the film. But the fairly short running time is also
one of the reasons that the film works. The characters aren't quite
captivating enough, as presented, to make us want to spend a lot more
time with them; the story isn't really developed enough to stand up
to the weight of more time spent on it, either. We're asked to accept
quite a few abrupt-seeming reversals of feeling (or at least, of
behavior) on the part of both Rickie and Dinah during their
relationship. One "twist" toward the end of the film, in
particular, requires our suspension of disbelief, as the characters
seem content to let fate (or, to put it another way, the script)
dictate their future rather than actually acting according to their
feelings and previous plans.
In the end, the rapid pace at which we move through the story is
simply the pace that the film needs in order to sustain our interest.
And it does work: The Heart of Me keeps moving and keeps the
viewer interested, and does so with enough polish and style to make
the experience worthwhile along the way.
The Heart of Me is presented in an attractive widescreen
1.85:1 transfer, and is anamorphically enhanced, even though the case
doesn't say so. Image quality is satisfactory throughout the film,
with a clean, generally crisp print and warm, natural-looking colors.
Contrast is not always handled as well as it could be, but on the
whole it's a pleasing transfer.
The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack makes for an enjoyable audio environment for
Heart of Me. The dialogue is clear and distinct, and while the
surround sound doesn't get put to much use overall, a few specific
scenes do benefit from the use of the additional
The Heart of Me offers a nice slate of special features for
viewers. To begin with, there's a generous number of trailers for
other Sundance Channel films, as well as a trailer for The Heart
of Me itself.
full audio commentary from scriptwriter Linda Coxon and director
Thaddeus O'Sullivan is included. We also get a deleted scene with an
introduction from Coxon explaining its function in the film and why
it was cut, and a mildly interesting seven-minute set of interviews
with the three main actors and the director, mainly talking about
their interpretations of the film and characters.
The Heart of Me is a polished, if in the end rather
inconsequential, film; it tells a reasonably interesting story in a
very competent manner, drawing the viewer along quickly enough that
the uneven points in the story aren't very noticeable. I'll suggest
it as an excellent rental choice; it doesn't have much repeat viewing
value, but it's worth seeing once. Rent it.