Heartless

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Heartless Movie Poster Image
Bizarre fantasy mixes graphic horror and romantic longing.
  • NR
  • 2010
  • 114 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Jamie, who has spent his life hiding away due to his large birthmark, eventually conquers his fear -- leaning that beauty is only skin deep and that people can love him despite his appearance. But he goes to drastic means to learn this lesson and makes several seriously problematic choices in the process. Still, you could argue that Jamie's tale is a cautionary one and that viewers can learn from his mistakes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jamie takes the wrong path, including murder, to reach the conclusion that his unusual appearance doesn't really matter to people that love him. By the time he truly realizes that, he's already "made a deal with the devil," and it's too late for him.

Violence

Gangs prowl the London streets; they use Molotov cocktails to start fires, and characters are burned (one character magically tears off his blackened skin to reveal new skin underneath). One murder victim's chest is sliced open with a knife, and his heart is removed. Viewers also see guns, terrifying monsters with razor-sharp teeth, and severed heads that come to life. Characters fight, and there's lots of blood.

Sex

The hero and his girlfriend have sex in bed (no graphic nudity). The hero brings home a male hustler, and there's some sexual innuendo. The hustler strips naked and is covered with plastic wrap, but again, no graphic nudity is shown.

Language

Characters use "f--k" and "f--king" every chance they get (which is very often!). Other words include "hell" and "bitch."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters go out for cocktails on more than one occasion. The hero has a difficult time drinking hard liquor.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this bizarre British horror/fantasy from cult director Philip Ridley is filled with violent, terrifying images -- including plenty of blood and gore and people burning to death. The story is a classic deal-with-the-devil tale in which the hero pays an awful price to get what he wants -- but it also has elements of a sweet romance, and the main character learns to come to terms with the birthmark that has tormented him since childhood ... though not before he's done some pretty terrible things. Language is very strong, including near-constant use of "f--k," and there are some sexual situations, but no graphic nudity is shown.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written bylittlemonster98 April 3, 2011
Teen, 15 years old Written bybananalover March 28, 2011

Heartless

violence: People start fires, and characters are burned. Someone gets murders by getting his chest sliced open with a knife. (Blood is shown.) Then his heart is... Continue reading

What's the story?

Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess) has spent his life hiding away due to the large, heart-shaped birthmark that covers half of his face, neck, and arm. Though he knows he can never show her his face, he falls in love with a model, Tia (Clemence Poesy), in his brother's photography studio. One night Jamie sees a gang of thugs starting a fire; one of them appears to be a monster with razor sharp teeth. As the streets begin to seethe with violence, Jamie meets Papa B (Joseph Mawle), a mysterious, supernatural figure who offers Jamie a fresh start, with a new face. In exchange, Jamie must "create some chaos." Unfortunately, his part of the bargain turns out to be murder. Will he risk losing Tia, or is the price for failure even more terrible?

Is it any good?

Directed by Philip Ridley, HEARTLESS is nothing if not imaginative. It's a visually bizarre update of the deal-with-the-devil "Faust" legend, with a range of amazing, hilarious, terrifying, and romantic images bashing up against one another in an eerily natural way. It could almost be likened to Twilight, but for a more adventurous set.

Jim Sturgess gives an appealing performance as the withdrawn Jamie, who's almost constantly overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of love and horror in the world. Ridley fills out the rest of the movie with great character actors, including Ruth Sheen, Timothy Spall, and a terrific Eddie Marsan as the "weapons man." But despite all of this wonder and sensation, there's something slightly off-putting and distant about the movie; Ridley can't quite connect with his audience the way more passionate "dark fantasy" filmmakers like Terry Gilliam and Guillermo Del Toro can. Even so, Heartless is remarkable in many ways and is worth the effort for older teens and adults.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the film's violence. What affect did it have on you? Was it scary? Thrilling? Disturbing? What were the most powerful images?

  • Could Jamie have learned to live with his birthmark, or did he need this harsh lesson about body image?

  • Who do you think this movie is intended to appeal to? Does it succeed?

Movie details

For kids who love fantasy

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