The Lawless Heart

on February 01, 2003 by Chris Wiegand
   The imaginative second feature from Neil Hunter and Tom Hunsinger, the writing and directing team behind 1996's “Boyfriends,” is a triumphant study of relationships familial and sexual, failed and successful. Played out by a talented ensemble cast of actors of varying ages, including the very wonderful Bill Nighy (last seen busting out of pokey in Peter Cattaneo's “Lucky Break”), “The Lawless Heart” opens with the aftermath of one character's death and soon becomes a meditation on life, observing how the inhabitants of a small town in England's Essex coast choose to live their own life and struggle to understand others'.

   Hunter and Hunsinger's film focuses on three male characters, exploring how they are affected by the untimely death of the charismatic Stuart. Stuart's lover, Nick (“Gosford Park's” Tom Hollander), finding himself alone with his dog, an empty house and a business to run, begins to question his sexuality when he meets the bubbly Charlie (Sukie Smith). He seeks comfort from Stuart's sister, Judy (Ellie Haddington). Judy's husband Dan (Bill Nighy) is anxious about how his wife will disperse the finances of her departed brother, and suffers something of a crisis when he is tempted by the attractive Corinne (Clémentine Celarié). Meanwhile, Tim (Douglas Henshall), one of Stuart's oldest friends, returns to town for the funeral after a lengthy spell of traveling and must readapt to the place's sleepy pace of life.

   Honest, poignant and occasionally very, very witty, “The Lawless Heart” could be one of the most essential British movies of the year. All three of the principal characters, not to mention a string of supporting ones, are drawn with an admirably high level of detail. The emotional resonance of the actors' natural performances is bolstered both by the warmth of Sean Bobbit's superb cinematography and by the touching refrains of Adrian Johnston's score. The film's only real shortcoming is its use of a rather jarring “Pulp Fiction”-style narrative pattern that divides the action into three episodes, told from the point of view of each of the central characters. Starring Douglas Henshall, Tom Hollander, Bill Nighy and Clémentine Celarié. Directed and written by Neil Hunter and Tom Hunsinger. Produced by Martin Pope. A First Look release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 102 min

Tags: Douglas Henshall, Tom Hollander, Bill Nighy, Clmentine Celari, Neil Hunter, Tom Hunsinger, Produced by Martin Pope, A First Look release, Drama, traveling, natural, shortcomings, family, relationships

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