The Heart Of Me

on June 13, 2003 by Chris Wiegand
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Veering between the years before and immediately after the Second World War, “The Heart of Me” details a volatile love triangle that threatens to tear a family apart. An elegant, tragic tale, it showcases career-best performances from leading British actors Helena Bonham Carter, Olivia Williams and Paul Bettany.

Bettany plays Rickie, a handsome businessman married to Williams' prim and proper--yet not unappealing--Madeline. Superficially, the couple's life is perfect: They have a beautiful house (in London's Fitzrovia), an adoring bright-eyed son and a certain social standing. If only Madeline's flighty, free-spirited sister Dinah (Bonham Carter) would snare a suitable suitor, the family's good name would surely be assured…

The trouble is, Dinah and Rickie are secretly in love and as yearning gives way to passion, they're consumed by a clandestine affair.

Adapted from Rosamond Lehmann's 1953 novel “The Echoing Grove” and directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan (“Ordinary Decent Criminal”), “The Heart of Me” objectively charts the emotional fallout of this conundrum, acutely capturing the central characters' foibles, contradictions and delusions. It's a masterful and suspenseful film that should repay any number of repeat viewings.

O'Sullivan proves remarkably adept at releasing vital plot information in a wholly unexpected fashion. The audience is often caught off-guard as his film twists and turns toward an extremely poignant, though positive, conclusion. What is particularly impressive throughout is how our sympathies continually shift from one character to another. By the end, each of the three central characters has been both implicated and redeemed.

A class act through and through, “The Heart of Me” was selected as the closing film of the 2002 Regus London Film Festival. Starring Helena Bonham Carter, Olivia Williams, Paul Bettany and Eleanor Bron. Directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan. Written by Lucinda Coxon. Produced by Martin Pope. A Thinkfilm release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 94 min

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