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Dark Hearts [Kevin Van Stevenson, USA, 2020]

Kevin Van Stevenson’s Dark Hearts opens with a montage of a child’s room in utter disrepair – crayons strewn across the floor signalling a lost childhood; smashed photo frames suggesting shattered memories. We follow a man who is haunted by the disappearance of his little girl and the repercussions that it is having on his marriage. The film essentially delves into the subject of bereavement and takes us through the five stages of grief, namely: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

The plot follows a day in a life of this grief-stricken couple as they fight, throwing accusations and blame at one another for their loss whilst battling with alcoholism. The husband, played by Brian Gleeson, is trying to come to terms with the fact that his daughter is dead after being missing for a long time, while his wife, played by Eileen Grubba, lashes out at him for giving up on finding her. She still clings to the hope that she might come back one day and insists that she is sending ladybirds, serving as a symbol for them that she is still alive.

Grief is often challenging to deal with in cinema, and Dark Hearts tends to lose focus on its character’s inner journey of growth and evolvement. The performances, at times, lack range and are a bit wooden. The pacing drags in the middle section of the film and the camera work is a little unsteady. What could have been a visceral and emotional exploration of human trauma, ultimately, leaves you underwhelmed with a film that needed a lot more darkness and a touch more heart.


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