A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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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Jim Sturgess gives an appealing performance as the withdrawn Jamie, who's almost constantly overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of love and horror in the world.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 ...
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?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love fantasy
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