The Heart Of Me

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

As hobbies go, infidelity is not easy to master. It can be passionate, intense and all those things that drive women wild, such as coochy-coos and sex on the stairs and a feeling of being needed. At the same time, it is stolen, unrealised and full of deceit.

Sooner rather than later she wants more and later rather than sooner the lies pile up and he's dwarfed by regrets and the world falls to pieces and his wife can't stop crying and the children look frightened because they know something bad is happening, but don't know why.

You have been here before, cinematically speaking, and you're going there again. Not much has changed. The wife is bossy, cold, loyal and true. The mistress is funny, hot, instinctive and unpredictable. The husband/lover wears the uniform of a city gent and is well trained in the art of evasion. Being upper-middle-class, his emotions have been locked in a priest hole for years so that when they are allowed out, he talks wobbly.

Of course, it's doomed. That's part of the romance. Living on the edge until the edge gives way. "I'm more than happy," she says, in a voice straining to be believed. "I'm in a state of hope." He goes to the jewellers to have part of a poem by William Blake engraved on a silver bracelet. The war is on and this is London and bombs are falling. Lips stiffen, backs straighten, hearts fail, tears run. Soon, but not soon enough, Private Ryan will get lost in France. But that's another story.

Based on a novel by Rosamon Lehmann, the film feels less of a fiction than End Of The Affair. Without understanding the nuances of social behaviour, circa 1935, it is difficult to catch the drift. The two women are sisters, which isn't good, and when mother (Eleanor Bron) wades in with devious antics of her own to stave off "an absolute tragedy", you realise this is a little more serious than Shona and Kevin having a fling after the office party.

Everything feels dated, which is exactly right, because it's dealing with moral judgements that are seldom talked about anymore. The look is perfect, the understatement carefully preserved. Dinah (Helena Bonham Carter) has a spirit that will not be tamed. Madeleine (Olivia Williams), her sister, recognises how dangerous this can be around men and hates her for the power of it. Rickie (Paul Bettany) is going through the motions of a marriage that has grown stale and sees in Dinah an expression of enlightenment that shouts in the face of conformity. The sex is good, too, which is quite important.

The performances shine, rather than sparkle. Bonham Carter is typecast, Bettany is never likely to catch fire and Williams controls her anguish with admirable restraint. They cannot be faulted and yet the film suffers from its own perfections. This place, this London they live in, feels as tired and socially archaic as a dusty smoking room.

Reviewed on: 01 May 2003
Share this with others on...
The Heart Of Me packshot
Infidelity amongs the upper-middle classes in London during the Blitz.
Amazon link

Director: Thaddeus O'Sullivan

Writer: Lucinda Coxon, based on The Echoing Grove by Rosamon Lehmann

Starring: Helena Bonham Carter, Olivia Williams, Paul Bettany, Eleanor Bron, Luke Newberry, Gillian Hanna, Andrew Havill, Tom Ward, Alison Reid, Karthryn Tennant-Maw

Year: 2002

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK/Germany

Festivals:


Search database:


If you like this, try:

End Of The Affair