Monkey Reviews

Through the Eyes of A Chimp

Monkey Reviews
Friday, February 24, 2012

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The Good Heart

I loved this movie, bleak as it was. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, even the day after. The title of the movie says it all and in so many different ways we find out what a good heart really is ... physically, spiritually, symbolically and perhaps most profoundly what a good heart means to a friendship. I guess you could call “Good Heart” a buddy movie for the homeless and the curmudgeons out there and that would include all of us at some level. After all don’t most of us, at times, struggle with finding our place in the world and at other times grow tired of the world and all the nonsense that comes with living within society, so yes we are cynics as well and find our hearts heavy with judgmentalism.

“Good Heart” is an international joint effort. The two main characters are played by Paul Dano (remember “Little Miss Sunshine) and Brian Cox. I don’t need to tell you who plays the curmudgeon – a Scrooge like character who makes no apologies for his stance against the world and all that is pure and beautiful. The director/writer is Dagur Kari from Iceland which explains perhaps why the movie isn’t pretty and it’s edges haven’t been sanded down – it is gritty, dirty and the cinematic palate uses few colours besides browns and beiges. The setting for much of the movie is in a bar in what seems like the worst part of town, a few blocks from the neighbourhood that finds itself under a bridge. The stage is set for a story that seems to be a cross between “The Ice Man Cometh” and “A Christmas Carol” – a well told story that is both about destitute dreamers and redemption that doesn’t come easy. It’s a story about community and the many ways we shut out the company of others. It’s a story of death and life and having our hearts made new, through very little effort of our own.

One of the reviews dubbed it as a slow movie. I wouldn’t call it slow but “Good Heart” is a movie that does take it’s time telling it’s story; to me, this was a good thing. The characters unravel at a pace where they become more than just stock versions of “homeless man” and “grumpy alcoholic bar-owner”. Their personal stories come alive for the viewer and we even see small glimpses into the lives of the bar patrons – even those without dialogue. So yes, a movie set in a bar will not be action-packed but much happens at the level of the human spirit. Sometimes what makes a movie isn’t the big epic moments but it’s the small details that are written in with care – for me “Good Heart” was full of those small details. The fact that several animals were invited into this hapless gathering of lost souls made the idea of redemption that much more moving and universal. Everyone was flawed, some more than others, but I found I felt a love and affection for each character – again a sign of a truly good movie.

I said “Good Heart” was a bleak movie but on second thought maybe what I should have said is that “Good Heart” is meaningful which means there will be moments of harsh reality, heavy themes and dysfunctional relationships but there are also moments that capture the humour, great word play between friends and the small joys that come from rubbing elbows with another fellow human. Enjoy.