Heartless



Director: Philip Ridley (2009)
Starring: Jim Sturgess, Clemence Posey, Noel Clarke, Luke Treadway
Find it: IMDB

It's Faust on a council estate as mild-mannered Jamie (Sturgess) finds that the best way to rid himself of a troublesome heart-shaped birthmark is to strike up a deal with a devil. Jamie is freed of his supposed deformity and finds himself developing a sweet relationship with neighbour Tia (Posey). But the devil drives a hard bargain, and Jamie finds himself forced to do something truly horrible in order to keep himself looking pretty.


Like Shameless crossed with Faust, the inner city London of Heartless is a shitty place to live. Jamie's brother is a thieving chav, his father is dead and the streets are constantly under siege from hoodies with demonic faces. When mother is immolated by a molotov cocktail and friendly neighbour AJ (Clarke) is shanked to death (the technical term) lead Jamie to the brink of suicide. Then gang boss Papa B (Joseph Mawle) offers the poor lad a little hope; the chance to free himself of the birthmark that has plagued him his whole life. Silly Jamie agrees. Sure it's nice being all sexy and all (although even with his birthmark, he's no Elephant Man) but the deal looks all the less sweet when Papa B starts demanding that Jamie kill innocent people to keep his face blemish free. Heartless, geddit. 

Sturgess is sympathetic as Jamie, while famous British faces such as Eddie Marsan (as Papa B's menacing enforcer) and Timothy Spall add a touch of class to proceedings. Clemence Posey is a lovely love interest and Noel Clarke is likeable in the few scenes in which he appears. The only one to really let the side down is  Luke Treadway. Much better in Attack The Block as the middle-class pothead, he struggles with his chav ebonics and sounds stilted and stupid. Thankfully he isn't in it much, leaving Sturgess to shoulder the majority of the screentime and drama. You'd have to be Heartless (GET IT) not to shed a tear at the more tender moments near the end.

Heartless is very well made, although it does have a tendency to take itself a little seriously at times. But then, it's a Faust adaptation on a council estate. A little loftiness is par for the course; the film's ambition and imagination far outstrips its moments of pretension.


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