The Heart of Me, London film festival

London film festival

The London film festival closed last night with a stridently gloomy tale of infidelity among the leisured professional classes of 1930s London, from a novel by Rosamond Lehmann.

Thaddeus O'Sullivan directs with a heavy touch; perhaps for this material no other touch is appropriate, or even possible. His players, Paul Bettany, Olivia Williams and Helena Bonham Carter, demonstrate the classic gestures of English period acting. The thin-lipped reproachful glance, the bohemian toss of the head, the casual business with the cigarette case - they are all evidence. Williams's crisp syllables have a very Kristin Scott Thomas-ish ennui, but from the rest of the cast there are lapses into Estuary English now and again.

Bettany plays Rickie, a well-off businessman happily married to the beautiful Madeleine (Williams), but when Madeleine's mixed-up artistic sister Dinah (Bonham Carter) comes to stay, Rickie conceives an amour fou for her that leads to about a decade's worth of grief. The film moves with a heavy tread among the dimly lit interiors of London houses and flats, and the occasional sunny, kite-flying idyll on Hampstead Heath. There's a lot of talk about escaping to Cannes, but the nearest we get to that is the English south coast.

By turns lugubrious and histrionic, this film is a little like Charles Sturridge's version of A Handful of Dust, Neil Jordan's The End of the Affair, with something of Iain Softley's The Wings of the Dove in its metropolitan setting - but without the gaiety and exoticism and mystery that coloured those pictures. It really is very dour, with a cumbersome flashforward-flashback structure, and moments of face-slapping melodrama that are unfortunately judged.

The three principals all have their moments; Williams and Bonham Carter do a very professional job with the sisters, difficult and thankless roles, although the movie does not allow them much space to develop their relationship. Bettany has an excellent moment at the beginning: his silent flash disgust with the fat-headed mediocrity lined up to marry Dinah is the moment he falls in love with her himself. But none of these sterling performers can quite escape the movie's oppressive, downward pull.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Marie-Jo and Her Two Loves, London film festival

London film festival

Peter Bradshaw

21, Nov, 2002 @12:01 PM

Auto Focus, London film festival

London film festival

Peter Bradshaw

09, Nov, 2002 @1:49 AM

London film festival focuses on refugees

Two-week programme features award-winning films from Polanski to Frears

Sean Clarke

18, Sep, 2002 @1:11 AM

Article image
Dirty Pretty Things, London film festival

London film festival

Peter Bradshaw

07, Nov, 2002 @11:42 AM

This Is Not a Love Song, Film festival, Edinburgh

Film festival, Edinburgh

Andrew Pulver

16, Aug, 2002 @1:38 PM

Festival preview: Lilja 4-Ever

Director: Lukas Moodysson

Steve Rose and Peter Bradshaw

30, Oct, 2002 @3:37 AM

Article image
Festival preview: Dirty Pretty Things

Director: Stephen Frears

Steve Rose and Peter Bradshaw

30, Oct, 2002 @3:39 AM

Requiem for a dream

Carlo Giuliani died on the streets of Genoa during last year's G8 riots. Now his story has been told in one of a string of films inspired by the three days of protests

Dave Calhoun

15, Nov, 2002 @2:47 AM

Article image
Chiwetel Ejiofor: Almost famous

He has impressed on stage, then in minor movie roles and now his compelling performance in Stephen Frears's brilliant new film confirms him as one of Britain's finest young actors. But Chiwetel Ejiofor isn't fazed by fame.

Amy Raphael

03, Nov, 2002 @3:27 PM

Festival preview: City of God

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Steve Rose and Peter Bradshaw

30, Oct, 2002 @3:34 AM