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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Very near the beginning of Heart of Now, a young girl, Monica (Mary
Elise Hayden), makes the quasi-pithy, half-serious/half-joking
statement that all women need a man who will give them 'loads of
intensity and massive support'. Couldn't this observation expand
further to blanket all of humanity, though? Don't we all need that mix
of feeling and security to go about our daily lives with meaning? Well,
if we are to use Zak Forsman's lead Amber (Marion Kerr) as an
exemplification for us allyes, we do. Hers is a girl who appears to
have everything figured out when we're introduced. Pretty, healthy, and
active, Amber knows how to have a good time with her friends and beau
Tobey (Jason L. Brandt), seeming to balance all facets of life in a way
that gives the revelation of pregnancy in the first scene an
incalculable sense of excitement and joy. This is the start of the next
chapter in her life, one with all the people she loves and a family on
the horizon. What we cannot expect, however, is that a short five or so
minutes later, this turning of the page becomes much bleaker than
Two scenes into the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival screening of Heart of Now and we've already been whipped through the emotional roller-coaster, basking in a young woman's glow, pulsating to her celebratory, red-hued dancing within the sounds of Airom Bleicher and Deklun, and eventually devastated by the abrupt exit of Tobey, leaving as Amber sits in stunned silence on the couch, immobile to the blur of impossibility moving before her. There is nothing she can do, a last ditch effort to beg and plead leaving her with a shove to the ground, her happiness driving away down the road. So, here she is, pregnant, alone, and without a place to stay. Her friends are there for support as Monica attempts to suggest an abortion so she can move on to forget the jerk while Edwin (Dusty Song) looks to console by taking her out for some much needed fun. Amber needs anything at her disposal to take her mind off of the hard choices she faces, a steady stream of phone calls to Tobey shedding light on her inability to cope and yearning for companionship.
There is really only one person she can truly turn to, though, someone who disappeared without so much as a goodbye years earlier, yet who once gave her the love and respect of a father. It's a hard call to make, but one that her soul needs to cleanse it of all the guilt, pain, and memories of always being left behind that plague her, risking a total descent into oblivion. Gabe (Kelly McCracken) can be her savior, he can be her knight in shining armor, but the question soon expands to what she can be for him. A closed-off introvert who wanders through Los Angeles's surrounding nature filming, his welcoming of Amber after over ten years of absence feels like more of a business arrangement than an expression of kindness. With machine-line precision, he tells her where the rooms of his apartment are, that she can set up in the living room, and how fickle his lock is. Any questions by her are met with silent dismissalhe is the one speaking, these are the rules. Gabe tries to keep his distance, telling himself he doesn't owe this girl anything, but the simple fact he invites her in proves he doesn't believe it.
Their relationship is soon exposed and we begin to understand how they havealthough separated by many years of agecome to know each other. Concepts of love, family, loss, and regret crop up to add an even heavier sense of emotional turmoil to the mix. Amber doesn't know what it is like to be alone and Gabe has no desire to give up his love of isolation. But the two have been connected somehow, the fates have brought them back together to reconcile and move on even though they both thought they already had. The unspoken tension between them is palpable and the closely framed compositions refuse escape from the performers' highly emotive facesstrained in pain, contorted in suffering, and forever in need of even a glimpse of hope. Details of their lives are uncovered that infer on their current situations like her sense of not letting go and his of never holding tight enough. She can't see that her ex only starts calling her again to satisfy his sexual needs, not any desire to be with her, and he is blind to his 'sort of' girlfriend's inability to suffer through his cold detachment.
They are who they are because of where they've been and much of that stems from a previous life lived together. Talking to Amber would only open up old wounds that Gabe isn't ready to face. She must take extensive measures to chip away at his defenses, leaving recorded messages for him to know that she cares, despite all that happened. Heart of Now is a gradual build to its eventual payoff; its cathartic climax will leave you devastated by Kerr and McCracken's subtly brilliant performances, their explosion of pain long left buried making way for a chance at redemption in a world often appearing to lack such possibility. Forsman writes a couple exchanges that leap off the page and out these actors' mouths with the type of intensity and longing for safety Monica described. He makes sure we become claustrophobic with their expressions until juxtaposing them against the wide-open expanse of desert at the endmaking them seem more alone and vulnerable than ever before. So much is also said in the silence, their story existing on more than words and their future lying in wait to once and for all be taken without regret.
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