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With: Olivia Williams, Paul Bettany, Helena Bonham Carter
Written by: Lucinda Coxon, based on the novel by Rosamond Lehmann
Directed by: Thaddeus O'Sullivan
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality
Language: with English subtitles
Running Time: 96
Date: 09/06/2002

The Heart of Me (2003)

1 Star (out of 4)

Mild at 'Heart'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

So-called "weepies," or "women's pictures," used to ache and clutch and wail and breathe, pictures like Irving Rapper's Now, Voyager and Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows. Now they click back and forth like a metronome, terrified of challenging the average viewer's attention span. The scenes in the new The Heart of Me consistently chop short before they have a chance to come to life.

Set during the 1920s and '30s, the story has lily-livered Rickie (Paul Bettany) married to stern Madeleine (Olivia Williams). But of course, he's fallen in love with Madeleine's brooding sister, Dinah (Helena Bonham-Carter). Rickie flits off for an affair with Dinah and gets her pregnant. The baby dies, lots of people cry, and when people are not crying the weeping violin score makes up for it. Truth be told, I would have fallen asleep if the crushing boredom did not keep me awake.

The direction, by Thaddeus O'Sullivan, fluctuates between lazy and timid. He's afraid to let his characters stop chattering for a moment, or to let one of his shots linger for a moment. I suspect that insipid, meaningless titles like The Heart of Me are actually a secret code so that "weepie" fans can all meet at a specific daytime matinee. (The title of the source novel is even worse: The Echoing Grove.) That way they can cry in peace without anyone they know seeing them and without being embarrassed. But they should be.

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