The troth hurts
A doomed engagement, betrayal and death form the bleak but very moving family drama "The Heart of Me."
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
London, 1934, and father has just died.
"You're the man of the house now" quips mother (Eleanor Bron, looking like she just stepped out of "A Little Princess"). Her words are directed at her son-in-law Rickie, played by Paul Bettany. Rickie's married to Madeleine mannered, repressed, one child and doting brother-in-law to the free-spirited Dinah. The sisters are played by "The Sixth Sense's" Olivia Williams, fetching in period curls, and Helena Bonham Carter, properly vivacious.
|THE HEART OF ME|
|Directed by: Thaddeus O'Sullivan.|
Written by: Lucinda Coxon.
Adapted from the novel "The Echoing Grove" by: Rosamond Lehmann.
Cast: Helena Bonham Carter, Olivia Williams, Paul Bettany, Eleanor Bron, Luke Newberry, Tom Ward, Gillian Hanna, Andrew Havill, Alison Reid, Kathryn Tennant-Maw, Rebecca Charles, John Rowe, Shaughan Seymour, Simon Day, Jenny Howe.
Related links: All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
Soon after the funeral, Dinah announces her engagement to a safe bet at a dinner party in a move teetering on peer pressure. Later that evening, Rickie takes his patriarchal duties a little too seriously by visiting Dinah in her bedroom late at night and demanding she break off the engagement. Dinah's dutiful compliance is the first hint that Rickie is perhaps not the most chaste of brothers-in-law.
Cinematographer turned director Thaddeus O'Sullivan's elegant, beautifully turned melodrama unfolds slowly, perceptively. It lingers on the details and doesn't rush to expose its secrets.
In a powerful move early in the film the action is moved ahead twelve years as Madeleine and Dinah attempt to reconcile the past over a lunch of what look to be stuffed cucumbers. You can see the havoc Dinah's affair has wreaked in the sisters' bleak, drawn-out faces (some will call this a bleak, drawn-out movie but I was entranced by the film's sense of time and proportion, not to mention its exquisite performances). Key snippets of information are revealed in these latter-day sequences, typically the fate of a key character or two, yet we bounce back to 1934 and its environs to learn more about how Dinah's selfish, callous act sent a tragic ripple through the hearts of men and many.
Based on Rosamond Lehmann's 1953 novel "The Echoing Grove," "The Heart of Me" is a powerful, authentic, and deeply emotional period piece that clearly communicates that very special affinity between sisters. Catch it and hold on to it and never let it go.
|NOVEMBER 1, 2003|
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