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The Heart of Me

Starring Helena Bonham Carter, Olivia Williams, Paul Bettany and Eleanor Bron
Screenplay by Lucinda Coxon
Based on "The Echoing Grove" by Rosamond Lehmann
Directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan
no website

IN SHORT: Not even a good chick flick. [Rated R for some sexuality. 96 minutes]

We have developed a sixth sense, if you will, over the last ten years of reviewing. We call it our "must've been a great read" acknowledgement for a great book will always contain too much material to compress down to the 90 to 120 minutes the film form requires. The Heart of Me is the latest to join that list. It is a story of two sisters, both in love with the same man set in Britain in the time periods before and after WWII. Most of the time it is quite easy to distinguish the two time periods. The rest of the time it is not and, as the story wobbles back and forth, it failed to hold our interest. We cannot dismiss The Heart of Me as a mere chick flick, either, as it failed to ignite the wetworks in the female portion of our screening audience that chick flicks tend to do.

We begin the story of Dinah (Helena Bonham Carter) and her sister Madeline (Olivia Williams) at the funeral of their father in 1934. Madeline is stiff upper lip. Dinah quite the opposite. Still, she is British. Their version of emotionally hysterical doesn't come close to anything on this side of the pond. The single sister is invited into the married home and, while Madeline searches for a suitable husband for her sister, husband Rickie (Paul Bettany) takes other kinds of notice.

Rickie doesn't do anything about that until Dinah announces her engagement to some chap named Charles. He sneaks to Dinah's room one night and tells her to break off the engagement, which she does. He sets her up in an apartment with (an apparently) lesbian roommate Bridie and soon after, the extra-marital fireworks begin. What evolves in this story -- pregnancy and discovery -- is the core of heavy duty soap-opera fare. At least it would be if The Heart of Me didn't keep its stiff upper lip heritage in the foreground. World War II is conveniently skipped in the narrative as Dinah is left behind when Madeline and Rickie add a second child to their nest. As for the second part of the story, and why Rickie is notably absent as the sisters reconcile, it is an event that is foreshadowed in one line of script. No, it has nothing to do with the war. The recreation of that event packs almost no emotional punch which, had the characters and situations they experienced connected with us, it could have.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Heart of Me, he would have paid . . .

$3.00

Director Thaddeus O'Sullivan has chosen to tell his story in such a cut and dried manner that we advise all those who prefer films aimed at the art house to wait and rent.

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