Lawless Heart (2001) Poster


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It's all in the detail
Edward Randell19 March 2003
This was probably the finest film I saw last year. From its first scene, with the ever-so-English Bill Nighy, it was funny, sad and thought-provoking in equal measures. Nighy's turn as the confused, homophobic but well-meaning Dan was strong, and fully engaged our sympathies, but was trumped when we rewound and saw the same events as Nick (Tom Hollander). Hollander has a marvellous ability to show endless longing in a single eye movement - he's a remarkable actor and once again gave us a fully empathetic character. Sukie Smith, the opposite of his character, was clumsy but lovable as Charlie, and that segment felt almost self-contained.

When we rewound again to see Tim's viewpoint, I was a little disappointed. Tim had proved a horrible, selfish character, and I didn't fancy "being" him for any length of time. But Doug Henshall blew my mind in a performance that completely changed my view of his character and led to a moving and satisfying resolution.

In each of these men we are offered a different aspect of the Everyman. We learn that no-one is as they appear. Other laudable aspects are the uniformly strong supporting cast, the beautiful photography and music, but above all the little details. For example, Tim spooning sugar off the floor was genius. And in the restaurant when he makes a ring for Leah out of wire. And then the ashtray catches fire. Also, spot Corrine's dinner party in the background as Dan drives past. Look out for as many of these as possible! This is a film in which every detail is thought through, and it contributes for a cinematically enriching experience. SEE IT.
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The future of British cinema
paulrthomas26 February 2003
This is the kind of British film that they no longer make - a film that takes its time to reveal very real and complex characters and emotions. It is impossible to watch the film and not see aspects of your own life and relationships refracted through its characters. It's a film that leaves you feeling rewarded, stimulated and ultimately happy. British cinema deservedly has a poor reputation these days and the Film Council seems hell bent on funding films that it believes are going to be instant and obvious hits, rather than in investing in quality writing. Lawless Heart is where the future lies - a low budget film with big ideas.
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Thrice-told tale
bandw16 May 2006
This movie tells the same story from the viewpoint of three different people. The stories are presented in sequence and cover the same time span - the three characters are together in the first scene as well as several days later in the final scene. The event that brings them together in the first scene is the funeral reception for a man who was the brother-in-law of Dan (Bill Nighy), the lover of Nick (Tom Hollander), and the cousin and friend of Tim (Douglas Henshall). The plot structure is clever and works well. One of the challenges in telling a story in this manner that is effectively dealt with is to strike a balance in how much the characters interact - too little and the movie becomes three separate stories; too much and all the characters, as well as the viewers, know the whole story and there are no surprises. This plot structure is distinctly different from those of "Rashomon," where each character relates the same story with personal embellishments, or "Pulp Fiction," where the stories are only loosely intersecting and the time sequencing is not linear, or movies like "Lantana," which effectively utilizes flashbacks and interactions in real time among an ensemble of unrelated characters.

With each succeeding scene in each story we fill in pieces of the puzzle. The curious way people behave in one story is understood in a later story. For example, when Tim throws a party and invites a woman with whom he has just been enamored, she shows up only to hide behind a wall and ultimately escape the party by climbing over a fence. Tim is hard pressed to interpret this peculiar behavior and Dan, who witnesses the escape from outside the house, is mystified. How odd we think, but later we learn that a recent ex-lover of hers is there and she does not want an encounter with him.

We are made to think about how each of us sees only a small piece of the big picture. Each personal human encounter is the intersection of two worlds, the complex histories of which are fully known only by the individuals. People behave in ways that we find difficult to comprehend, but, in almost all situations, if we were to know the personal motivations and the full story, all would be understood.

To a great extent, the dialog carries the movie. When Dan is approached by an interested woman, Corrine, at the funeral reception and she asks him if he is depressed, he says, "How would I know?"

While the movie hangs together on first viewing, I found a second viewing to be rewarding. You pick up on a lot of things that would easily be missed on first viewing, like when Corrine invites Dan to dinner while checking out at the grocery store the cashier is a woman with whom Nick becomes involved.

The acting is polished and the multitude of songs on the soundtrack seem to have been chosen with care and they augment the story. It was uncharitable not to credit the Schubert piano trio that so effectively set the mood at the beginning and the end (Trio in E flat, Op. 100 D.929).

Altogether an engaging and skillful piece of film-making.
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Pleasing low budget drama about people, places and relationships.
Peter Hayes14 December 2004
After the death by drowning of a small time homosexual restaurateur by the name of Stuart (David Coffey), three sets of lives are changed and altered: not only by the death itself, but by each others reactions and counter-reactions to the tragedy.

Anyone who has put on their "reading glasses" and watched any worthwhile number of European cinema will have been confronted by films about "small people" who lives seem petty and insignificant in the telling (or even in the retelling to others): but reflect more about you and your life than the complete cannon of Bruce Willis. This is another example.

Lawless Heart (an over-the-top and misleading title) takes on a very simple story of loss, passing and the small amount of attached inheritance money. Nevertheless, it has to be borne in mind that the cash would mean a lot to the people who would receive it. There is also the vexed question of "natural justice." Something I don't want to flesh-out further in this review.

Maybe to try and distance itself from quality television, the film uses separate point-of-view flashbacks and although it might sound complicated and tricky in-the-telling, it is not too difficult a concept in-the-watching.

(Once you catch on to the technique that is. It left me a little confused for a while.)

While I enjoyed this film enormously, I must start with a string of petty irritations and focus bringers. The first being that there is really nothing new on the menu (no restaurant pun intended), the French have been doing this type of thing for years without the rest of the world really noticing.

(Those that enjoyed this film and want "more of the same" might like to start with the 1983 "Pauline à la plage." Not the same story - far from it - but the same basic approach and small home truths.)

Equally a list of well known emotion wranglers have been blended in to try and soft soap the potential audience: The use of emotive music (Adrian Johnston), 8 mm home movies and time-lapse photography has all been done before; although this film shows some imagination even in borrowing!

The movie deals with a homosexual relationship in a welcome manner. It is no more abnormal than anyone else's relationship, although that doesn't mean that everyone approves or wishes things weren't different.

Equally it never presents anything as the-end-of-the-world. People may - or may not - come in to the small amount of money we have already mentioned, but we are sure they will all survive whichever way the cookie crumbles.

Small town life is well captured, although with any ensemble piece you have your favourites. It doesn't really present women in any great light with the dorkish Charlie (Sukie Smith) providing some comic relief as the slightly out-of-it party girl who cannot - after a hard days night - even remember where she lives!

Thankfully no one is that smooth an operator and the various "rejecting women" probably have a certain amount of good taste. Layabout Tim (Douglas Henshall) is actually fascinating as we take an instant dislike to him and his leeching ways, but we slowly warm to him as the picture goes on - even if he shows no appetite for having a regular job or living anything other than a self-centred life.

Trust me I am not a sucker for sentimentality or bland emoting. Someone crying or in grief doesn't prompt me - automatically - to feel the same way, and there are plenty of characters here that could do with a good shake if not a soft kick up the backside.

In most ways Lawless Heart is a "soft sell" movie: It doesn't want to sell you anything unless you want to be a buyer of it: People live, people die, people fall in love, people fall out of love, people are mismatched in love. Occasionally people even come to terms with the limits of others.

Good work all round from the actors, producers and musicians. Without a fortune to spend I was quietly moved, even though I was trying hard not to be.
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Wonderful film, shame about Tim's parents
dianne.martin10 July 2002
I'd been waiting for ages to see this film, ever since I read about the making of it in January 2001. It's been a long wait since the London premier in November to it's recent general release. However it was well worth the wait. I liked the way that the film told the story from three different points of view. It was interesting how sometimes when you thought there were only two people in the scene first time,eventually you saw there were actually three or four. I was moved by Tom Hollander's performance as Nick trying to come to terms with his grief. I laughed and cried with Tim, A brilliant performance by Douglas Henshall. My only criticism of the film was Tim's parents. We only see them in a few scenes, but neither of them is like him. You would expect at least one of them to enjoy a 'right old knees up', or you would expect them to be kind salt of the earth types, instead they are portrayed as cold and indifferent. A lot of film critics have described Tom as the returning prodigal son, if he had been then his parents would have had the party for him, he wouldn't have had to organize his own. That aside I loved all of the other characters and the way they were portrayed. I don't think that anyone who has lost a friend or loved one could fail to be moved by the final scene. On the whole this is a wonderful British film.
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Rashomon, English style
Chris Knipp9 May 2003
Warning: Spoilers
"Lawless Heart" is among other things a skillful compromise between gay and straight stories. It may grow out of the reasonable presumption that gay men understand emotion better than most straights do, and that a movie that approaches general emotional experience with a gay perspective may have a more intelligent heart. "Lawless"? Well, that's because as the French say, "The heart has its reasons that the reason does not know." This small English film has met with almost universal acclaim. The only quibbles come from the tripartite narrative structure. The unity of the action and characters hinges on its all happening in a small seacoast town in Essex where everyone runs into each other at shops and parties.

We begin at a post-funeral reception where Dan (Bill Nighy) is being chatted up by a French woman named Corinne (Clémentine Célarié). He seems to want to avoid revealing anything, starting with his relation to the deceased, but in a moment somehow there's a flirtation going on. The exchange is a witty exploration of the abstract possibilities of spontaneous talk among strangers. One wishes there were more such conversations, but if most of the dialogue that follows is more ponderous, perhaps it has to be, because "Lawless Heart" contains a lot of narrative development. Every character has a story that intertwines with others and people are looking for love in All the Wrong Places as well as grappling with some of Life's Deeper Issues.

At the center is the aforementioned Dan, whose wife Judy (Ellie Haddington) was the deceased Stuart's sister. Then there's Nick (Tom Hollander), Stuart's bereaved lover and partner in his successful restaurant business. Here there's a serious financial issue: since Stuart left no will, Judy and Dan are in line for Stuart's money, but Nick needs it more, and Judy recognizes this. But Judy and Dan, who run a small farm, need it too, and Dan thinks gay men are all promiscuous and that, therefore, there was no binding tie between Nick and Stuart obliging them to help Nick.

The time frame of the first story told about Dan, who in the days following the funeral uneasily resists the temptation of a fling with Corinne, is repeated next for Nick, going back to the starting point at the funeral. We learn of a wild party given -- oddly -- just after the funeral at Nick and Stuart's house, and a girl named Charlie (Sukie Smith) who sleeps in Nick's bed, and later -- surprisingly -- becomes not only his companion and comforter but also his partner for a moment of intense and furtive sex.

Then a wild card enters, as we go back to the funeral and see the events through the eyes of a third man, Tim (Douglas Henshall), son of another farmer, a fun loving wastrel who's been away for eight years with barely a word. He's homeless and penniless and leaves a trail of mess, but his bad behavior masks a heart of gold. Tim tries to hitch up with an old girlfriend, Leah (Josephine Butler), whom he meets at the dress shop where she works. He's arranged to stay at Nick's, and throws the party there to impress Leah. What follows she sees only as a fling, because she truly loves Tim's brother by adoption, David (Stuart Laing), whose earlier affair with Leah has ended his own marriage.

It's not as messy or complicated to follow all this as it may sound. The structure allows us to pick out the threads easily by focusing on only one man -- first Dan, then Nick, then Tim -- at a time, as the other people's lives flow in and out of their three separate but overlapping stories.

After these tales, which all begin at the wake, have been told, the three men are all together with Judy at Dan and Judy's farm to watch a film of the dead Stuart. Resolution comes in the form of settling the deceased Stuart's money on Nick after all. Tim has done two good deeds: he has yielded Leah to his adopted brother, and he has urged Judy and Dan to give Stuart's money to Nick. But this doesn't absolve Tim of his essential sleaziness: he uses this fact to hit Nick up for two thousand pounds to get in on a new bar being opened in London, and perhaps pay back what he owes to his father from a failed previous venture.

There is other sleaziness: Charlie is rather sluttish, and her boyfriend tries to steal Nick's leather jacket and Stuart's fancy corkscrew at the party Tim has had the effrontery to give at Nick and Stuart's house. Sex is represented here as nothing but heads bobbing up and down and bums jerking in and out: it's all in a rush and not pretty. Though some English viewers think this film rather French, to an American viewer its blunt understatement, wry humor, and persistent mild pessimism are quintessentially English and are the chief sources of its special charm.

The weakness of "Lawless Heart's" tripartite structure is that it's not being used to get at some hidden mystery, as is the case in Kurosawa's classic "Rashomon." We're just seeing recent events from three perspectives, and the only resolution is that Nick receives Stuart's money and can move back to London from whence he came. When the speeded up photography of the shoreline reappears to herald another version of the same few days one gets a slight sinking feeling rather than the sense of excitement at coming revelation that new segments of "Rashomon" or the finale of "Ikiru" evoke.

But in the end one is won over because as the movie unreels, the stories are developed with astonishing sympathy and clarity. There's some of the sense of compromise and rueful intelligence about matters of the heart that John Schlesinger's 1971 "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" has -- if without that film's elegance and glossy style. This is a modest production, but through English understatement a great deal more is said with no hint of pretension than an American film about such topics might manage to convey. The precepts advanced -- love comes in surprising places, compromises can be noble, bad chaps can do good deeds -- are all embedded in action with an admirable fluidity. The fine ensemble acting that's long been a hallmark of English filmmaking is triumphantly present here. Hernshall may seem annoying as Nick, but his sensitivities are well revealed as his segment progresses. Nighy, though less seen and, when seen, in a role relatively static, is a marvel of believability and tight lipped revelation as the older man, Dan; and Tom Hollander is wonderfully pained and kind and grownup as the bereaved Nick.
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well worth seeing
gsygsy30 June 2002
Sensitive, atmospheric piece, which feels very French (Rohmer an obvious influence) in its treatment of life, love and loss. Beautifully shot and acted. It's a quibble, but I wish that one of three stories could have been told from the point of view of one of the three principal women. I guess the male directors/writers might have felt unsure about it, or maybe it never even occured to them to try it. Whatever the reason, the result seems to me that the women are more enigmatic than the men, less developed, more like figures than characters. Having said that, it's an excellent work, well worth seeing.
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The best film at the LFF..
robkenny138 December 2001
Of all the films I watched at the London Film Festival, this one stood out head and shoulders above the rest. Bill Nighy's opening performance had me mesmerised for the first twenty minutes, and the film maintained these high standards throughout.

The cinematography is superb, as are all of the performances from a very skilled and believable cast. The intertwined storylines reminded me of Kieslowski's Three Colours Trilogy, where everything comes together right at the end.

So much for the poor state of the British film industry, watch this and have your faith restored - a wonderful film in every aspect!
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At last a British movie that engages the brain
davidbaker99921 September 2002
A thoughtful, eloquent and compelling story of smalltown people wrestling with big time problems. This is a truly engaging movie - somehow realist and magical at the same time, that shows that British films don't have to feature Hugh Grant or crass cockney stereotypes. The dialogue is sharp, the acting competent if a little measured at times and you find yourself caring about how things will turn out even for characters you don't actually like that much.. I'm a friend of one of the directors in case anyone shouts bias, but I genuinely liked this movie and I'd recommend giving it a try.
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Bill Nighy strikes again
Major Lester10 October 2006
Bill Nighy said that "I know how not to make my eyes wiggle about"... and he demonstrates his, straight faced, lost older man, skills in this film. Brilliant, the way he conducts a conversation with Tom Hollander in the pub, but really to himself, about "courage" in love. All done with minimum face expression.

Douglas Henshall, who plays a totally convincing, with great hair, wild at heart, prodigal son returning to the Essex village after 8 years travelling, is asked "Where's your hippie necklace" (sub text... so all that hippie stuff was just a passing phase, and now you've grown up). Henshall pulls out his hidden necklace from behind a loosened tie, and replies "Round my hippie neck".

Henshall is never so convincing in this part as when he returns drunk at 3am to Tom Holander's house, where he has been lent a bed. While his companion gets down to rolling one, he puts on some music, much too loud. This wakes up Tom Hollander, who says it just isn't working out and asks him to leave. "But its 3am" he complains, and puts on one of the most exquisite expressions ever seen in the cinema, drunk but not so drunk that he can't attempt to placate, and be rational with Hollander.

There are Rashomon quotes in the trivia (the home movie filmed into the sun), as well as the obvious parallels in the story line structure. The scarf keeps popping up, rather like the Rashomon book in Gost Dog.

I love this film. There are scenes that will stay with you for life, but I will spare you my list, and simply say, watch it, again.
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Entwined Lives
Claudio Carvalho3 April 2009
In the funeral of Stuart, his sister Judy (Ellie Haddington) defends to her husband Dan (Bill Nighy) that his money should be delivered to his mate, the gay restaurateur Nick (Tom Hollander) since there is no will but that should be the wish if his brother-in-law. The faithful Dan meets the Frenchwoman Corrine (Clémentine Célarié) and he has the feeling that part of his life was lost. Meanwhile the grieving Nick hosts Stuart's best friend, the former hippie Tim (Douglas Henshall) at home. Tim has a crush on the worker of a fashion store Leah (Josephine Butler), who is heartbroken and healing from her last love affair, and he decides to give a party for her at Nick's place. After the party, Dan never meets Corrine in respect to his wife and but the drunken Michelle (Sally Hurst) gives a BJ on him; Nick befriends Charlie (Sukie Smith) that falls in love for him; and Tim finds that Leah's secret love is his stepbrother David (Stuart Laing).

After a complicated beginning due to the great number of characters, "Lawless Heart" becomes interesting with the entwined lives of several lead characters and the same story is retold centered in Dan, Nick and Tim and filling the blanks. The less interesting segment is the ironical situation of Dan, where the British dark humor prevails in a questionable sense of fidelity. In the end, the screenplay with open end works reasonably well developing the realistic characters and situations and the result is a good low-budget movie supported by great performances. My vote is six.

Titile (Brazil): "Coração Sem Lei" ("Lawless Heart")
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If you've missed this one, you've missed a fine film
zee21 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
There may have been other films that adopted this narrative structure, playing the same events over thrice, but from different points of view, but I've not seen such a film until Lawless Heart. I was blown away by both the idea and the execution of this structure, and I applaud the screenwriters/directors.

A terrific cast of British actors including Bill Nighy get to strut their considerable acting stuff here. As the scenes are replayed each time, in each of the three acts, we gain more and more insight into each character. We are reminded that the events we live--you and I, in our quotidian lives--have many different protagonists, and we might be nothing more than a bit player to everyone else who experiences the same events, that we might be misinterpreting everyone else's motivation, and that the most interesting details may well be hidden from us.

This may make the movie sound confusing, but it is not. The plot unfolds clearly and coherently. While I, a woman, enjoyed it, this is a men's movie, I think, for men who think and feel deeply, rather than men who like to see things blown up. You leave the theater or turn off your DVD player thinking, perhaps even a deeper person--and how often does that happen with a movie?
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Made me happy, made me sad.
apthorburn28 September 2002
Missed this film the first time round at the Local Independent Cinema (The Belmont, Aberdeen). So glad to see it come back. I could easily have gone back in and watched this film again. Hats off to the film makers, they got things spot on.

I cannot find the right words to say, great just does not cover it all.

The cast were great, I could not fault a single performance. Nice touch at the end with the film projector being fixed by Tim, poor Dan trying all the way through and just not fixing it. It allowed Stuart to be shown in all his 'glory'.
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spine tinglingly subtle
jamiebolt25 March 2003
a film about the truth of life - at first I thought it was boring because I am so conditioned by Hollywood etc. even British films that have wowed in the past five years are shown to have a certain fakeness by this one. Enjoy. I think it would make my perfect date movie.
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That stuff we call life.
George Parker5 September 2003
"Lawless Heart" is a quaint little British musing and reflection on the ebb and flow of affection among a variegated ensemble of characters just trying to make it from the womb to the tomb like you and me. Set in a village on the Isle of Man, this easy going dramedy mixes charm and heart with spritzes of passion and angst as it takes us on a carousel ride through the lives and loves of the characters showing us the same situations three times, each from a different person's perspective, thereby imparting a strong sense of interconnectedness. Enjoyable stuff worth a look by adults in the mood for an intelligently crafted story about people like us. (B)
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arresting drama
Roland E. Zwick6 June 2004
`Lawless Heart' feels a bit like a confused mess at the start – until you realize that it is telling the same story from the perspective of three different characters. When the elements begin to fall into place, the film becomes a touching human drama about exactly what the title implies – the inability to make the heart do what one wants it to do.

Written and directed by Tom Hunsinger and Neil Hunter, the film begins at the funeral of a gay man named Stuart who drowned a few days earlier in a boating accident. The story focuses on three of the people closest to him: Nick, Stuart's lover; Dan, Stuart's brother-in-law; and Tim, an old friend of Stuart's who's been off trying to make a success of himself and not doing a very good job of it. Rather than relate the tale in a straightforward, linear fashion, the filmmakers have chosen to employ a multi-level narrative structure, showing us events first from the perspective of one character, then backing up time and showing us them again from the perspective of another. Although the technique is often more distracting and gimmicky than illuminating, the film ultimately becomes a moving study of loss, jealousy, confusion and passion, with each of the film's many characters (not just the three listed) making a memorable mark on our hearts. The movie is helped immeasurably by its highly gifted cast, its complex interplay of character and time, and its understanding that the one thing we can't control is who we care for and who we love. The maturity of the film is evidenced in the fact that each of the characters comes to learn that he must temper his passions if he hopes to get through life with his sense of morality and decency - and his self-respect - intact.

Well written and acted, `Lawless Heart' is a quiet, unassuming film that has some important things to say about The Big Three: life, death and love.
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So sorry, load of derivative shite
kjm914a4 January 2005
And an insult to its purported subject, which seems to have been grieving over the accidental death of a gay man. No one (with one exception, in two brief moments) seems to really be concerned that a man has just died. Everyone's going to the National Front disco, screwing (exclusively heterosexually, I might add), and having cheery old smash-the-vase house parties.

And whoever told these guys that it would be a bright idea to mimic a Tarantino script structuring for this particular plot was quite off. Really, quite off.

Even the least qualified Tarantino imitator would have made better use of music, incidentally.
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Do me a facking favour...
phiggins1 July 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoiler warning. How to make a British art-house movie and get the critics gurgling with sheer pleasure: 1. Start with a funeral. Any writer worth his/her salt knows that this is the biggest cliche in the book and you should never start with a funeral, for ****'s sake. Don't listen to 'em. Start with a funeral. Never fails. 2. End with home movie/video footage of the deceased, accompanied by uplifting music. Can't beat it. 3. Mess around with flashbacks. They love it. 4. Mess around with points-of-view. Even better. Makes you look as though you are above such banal concepts as "linear storytelling" and the like. 5. Get loads of decent Brit actors like Nighy and Henshall. Can't go wrong. 6. Make sure you have a few shots of pretty scenery. Whether it's gritty London streets looking achingly beautiful, or deserted East Anglian beaches looking achingly beautiful, get 'em in there, and slap on the uplifting music. 7. Don't worry about seeming cliched or banal or predictable or unoriginal. No one gives a **** about stuff like that, do they?
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Modest but true
paul2001sw-17 August 2009
Sometimes it feels as if British cinema runs off a very limited talent pool: on seeing the cast for 'Lawless Heart' included Bill Nighy and Douglas Henshall, my heart groaned, not so much out of dislike of these actors, rather due to the dreadful predictability of the casting. But in fact, this is a sensitive and absorbing film, which follows the emotional fall out of a young man's death by telling three overlapping stories. The cinematography (of the East Anglian coast) is not spectacularly original, but well done, the soundtrack is also nicely judged, but what's best is the characterisation. The protagonists are all recognisably human and three dimensional, not wicked but still capable of hurting each other through their own selfishness, and while the plot has overtones of soap opera, the mood of the piece is much less melodramatic than this implies. This is not an astonishing movie, but it never overplays its premise, and feels true to life. By the end, I'd forgotten how many other low budget British films I'd seen its cast in.
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Nice but too slow, and a great soundtrack
Mason10248 October 2007
This is one of those slice-o'-life films like Magnolia that weaves together multiple story lines and characters. Lawless Heart throws in some time line shenanigans, too. I'm not exactly sure why this was done, though, except for a couple of decent jokes. Jumping around the chronology of the story does pose some questions about the story, and later answers them, but they are mostly very minor points, leaving me wondering if a straight time line would have been better. The music is great, especially for a drama centered on people's emotions. My principal complaint is that it... is... just... too... darn... slow. I could have sworn that at least 2.5 hours went by while watching this movie, and was shocked afterward to see the DVD sleeve claiming a 90-minute duration. Also, character Nick was far too much of a pushover to be believable.
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Best for the Performances
baker-916 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
There's not a weak link in the cast of "Lawless Heart," a multi-character film with intertwining stories following the accidental drowning death and funeral of Stuart, a local gay restaurateur in a village on the Isle of Man. In fact, the performances are the highlight.

Stuart's brother-in-law Dan (Bill Nighy) and sister Judy (Ellie Haddington) deal with what to do with Stuart's inheritance, as no will was prepared: keep it or give it to Stuart's partner Nick (Tom Hollander). Dan, who is rather homophobic, also begins to question the limitations of the life he's chosen. Judy is torn between loyalty to Stuart's probable wishes and her family's own tight financial situation.

Stuart's cousin Tim (Douglas Henshall) is an immature, ethically dubious black sheep who returns after leaving town years ago. He winds up falling for Leah (Josephine Butler) a local shopkeeper, only to get treated the same way he tends to treat people.

Nick, numb with grief, first lets Tim stay with him but soon regrets it. During a wild party Tim throws, Nick meets Charlie (Sukie Smith) a lively, feckless, not-too-bright local girl and is drawn to her energy and high spirits. (SPOILER ALERT). However, this story is where the script goes off-base. The development of Nick and Charlie's relationship struck me as forced in order for the two to have a single rushed, emotionally intense sexual encounter late in the film.

While it's apparent that Nick's behavior is more an outlet for his grief than anything else, the whole sequence felt false. It's not as if Nick couldn't express himself in such a way with another man (which would make more sense). With this film, "Bedrooms & Hallways" and the TV mini-series "Bob and Rose," I'm sensing an odd British fascination with gay men who suddenly have sex with women. Go figure.

I wonder if the filmmakers would have a grieving widower find himself having sex with another man. Don't bet on it.
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terrificly acted and constructed ensemble piece
drjabeles17 March 2003
a terrificly acted and constructed ensemble piece... wittily developed musical themes of pulsating rhythms from Schubert to disco matches the frequent rhythms of the not infrequent "bonking" scenes... also the characters falling in love with each other are all derived from different classes or social groups with their class-identifying accents, with different levels of social and sexual repressions or freedoms, but in the end all with very human needs for contact and closeness...
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Lawless Editing
oldskool729 October 2002
Saw this film last night... One of those films that you watch and think "that could have brilliant, had the production team done a better job" - the editing and bad sound made it hard to fathom out what was going on at times - Its a very intricate plot and these factors didnt help.

Having said that, it IS a beautiful, gentle (but modern in terms of its take on life) film. Its shot kind of "Sliding Doors" stylee... same story 3 times from a different characters perspective (which was a mistake, too ambitious - i got lost in places) they all meet at a wake in a small seaside town, friends, lovers and... florists...

What results is a fairly tight-knit community where obviously characters lives overlap in terms of lovers and situations etc....

The Scenenry is breathtaking (if you like desolate seaside like me) and used really well to give the film space and mood

Like most of the better modern brit-films is has a gay plot (Younger guy left widowed by his older partner) - but it is well played and treated with sensitivity and in an uncliched, spirited fashion. For all the tired "Queer as Folk" stereotypes we are force fed, its refreshing to see gay people portrayed in everyday, yet unique and challenging ways. More of the different please!

To sum up, "Lawless Heart" wont change your life, but if you decide to watch it, stick with it and lose yourself in its introspective beauty.
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Pulp Fiction meets The Big Chill
david-3414 October 2001
A young Englishman has drowned, and his friends and family are coming to grips with his death and other events in their lives. The story is told from the perspectives of three characters, one after the other, and as their stories overlap we see different portrayals of the same event, a la Pulp Fiction. The writing, acting, and directing are first rate. The plot is simple -- regular people dealing with regular issues, mostly about relationships. But the film is so well executed that every moment is intensely interesting.
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