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Philip Ridley is an artist, a writer and a film director whose work is considered unconventional and unique in every form he touches. Some how he manages to marry all of these forms in his most recent HEARTLESS, including writing the lyrics to the many songs by David Julyou that play such an important role in the unfolding of this visit to the Faust legend. It is harsh, dark, disturbing, and at times a bit over the top as far as his need to make visual things that go bump in the dark. But in the end, with the incomparable help of featured actor Jim Sturgess, he makes it work.
Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess) is a young 25-year old photographer living in a squalid area of London with his loving mother (Marion Morgan): Jamie bears a birthmark on his face and the upper torso that makes him the victim of prejudice by the boys in the neighborhood and has resulted in his living the life of a recluse. Jamie's brother and nephew (Luke Treadway and Justin Salinger) stay close to the home but are preoccupied with other matters - some good some bad. Jamie longs for his departed father (Timothy Spall) who 'made the world make sense' and he longs for a relationship with a girl so that he can have a family and be normal. Walking the streets at night Jamie hears screams and witnesses sights that terrify him: he is aware that gangs rule the world and in time he is assaulted with his mother during a night walk and his mother is killed. In an attempt to find sense out of chaos Jamie becomes friends with a new neighbor AJ (Noel Clarke) and is offered a handgun by a local merchant (Frazer Ayers) 'to protect himself. As Jamie becomes more terrified with the creatures he sees in the night and angered by the death of his mother he ultimately meets Papa B (Joseph Mawle) who just happens to have strange powers to offer Jamie anything he wishes. Jamie makes a pact with Papa B, agreeing to promote chaos in the streets in the form of writing graffiti in turn for Papa B removing the ugly birthmark from his body. Papa B's young girl assistant Charlie (Nadia Theaker) bonds with Jamie and becomes like the daughter Jamie has always wanted.
Now, without the physical disfigurement Jamie attracts a pretty delivery girl Tia (Clémence Poésy) and seems to have found his wishes come true - with Tia and Charlie as family. But Papa B has other plans and sends his Weapons Man (Eddie Marsan) who gives Jamie an altered version of his assignment from his pact with Papa B and the world becomes ruled by horror. How Jamie responds to his new bizarre assignments changes the course of the tale, a course best not shared in a review.
Jim Sturgess makes this role of a seemingly impossible spectrum of acting an example of just how skilled he has become in his craft. The cast is good but burdened with many aspects of the bizarre that keep the viewer form connecting in a positive way. The cinematography by Matt Gray is appropriately dark and the visual effects, though excessively ugly, make the atmosphere of this dark tale work. It is a strange film and requires that viewer to suspend disbelief, but the impact and underlying message is strong.
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