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Anthony M. Bertram
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Working in a Boston homeless shelter, Nick Flynn re-encounters his father, a con man and self-proclaimed poet. Sensing trouble in his own life, Nick wrestles with the notion of reaching out yet again to his dad.
After a suicide attempt, Lucas, a young homeless man in New York City, is taken in by Jacques, the gruff owner of a small bar. Jacques is on his fifth or sixth heart attack, and he wants Lucas to run the bar after he dies. Jacques has many rules: don't be friendly, don't serve walk-ins, no food or flowers or candles, put the cash in the freezer every night. Lucas, on the other hand, has a good heart: he gives his money away, he talks to customers, and, when April, a young French woman who has washed out of flight-attendant school, enters the bar chilled to the bone, Lucas takes her in. If Jacques won't tolerate April, what will Lucas do? Written by
I attended the North American Premiere of "The Good Heart" at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. Brian Cox and Paul Dano (reunited after the 2001 indie classic "L.I.E.") pull off a tour de force that left me breathless in this character piece from Icelandic writer/director Dagur Kári.
The film opens with Lucas (Dano) barely eking out a living in a cardboard box under a rusty highway overpass, with only a scrawny kitten as a companion. Jacques (Cox) runs a worn old bar where he's beginning to take on its characteristics. The two meet and a classic intergenerational arc is set up that carries the film to the end.
The film is dominated by a triumphant performance from Cox, one of the film world's masters. Shot primarily in one interior location, the theatrical nature of the script lends itself to playful interaction between the two leads. The chemistry between Cox and Dano began in 2001 with "L.I.E." and there's still magic in that relationship, forged over time as Dano has matured as an actor and into manhood. Interestingly, there are some references to cars and shaving which have carried over from "L.I.E." to "The Good Heart," intentional or not. Conflict is infused by the sudden appearance of April (Isild Le Besco), who forces the two to take sides even as their friendship is beginning to blossom.
Shot with mostly hand-held camera by cinematographer Rasmus Videbæk, "The Good Heart's" grainy film stock, washed out colors, and natural lighting without compensation for shadows give the film an honest look. A sweet soundtrack is mostly provided by the player piano that holds a prominent place in the bar. It's a clever and amusing device.
A long time in the making, "The Good Heart" spent five years in production with exteriors in New York and interiors in Iceland. Cox's introduction after the screening brought the first standing ovation of the festival.
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