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United Kingdom 2002
Directed by
Thaddeus O'Sullivan
96 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Heart Of Me

For those who feast on tales of tragic love there is bounteous fare here in this BBC Films-produced period romance concerning upper-class sorts in ‘tween wars England. It tells the story of two sisters, Madeleine, prim, proper and controlling (Olivia Williams) and Dinah, a freedom-loving bohemian (Helena Bonham Carter), and Madeleine’s husband Rickie (Paul Bettany), the man whom they both love after their fashion. He in turn is trapped between them with his mother-in-law (Eleanor Bron) an indomitable matriarch determined to see that respectability is preserved

Based on a 1953 novel by Rosamond Lehmann, apparently inspired by her affair with C. Day Lewis and scripted by Lucinda Coxon, once the initial set-up is established the film jumps forward by ten years to when clearly things have clearly have not gone well and introduces a flashback structure to describe how this came to pass.

The inimitable Bonham Carter, who has played this kind of character many times, although looking a little at times as if she was in one of her husband Tim Burton’s films is well-suited to her role but it is Williams who most impresses as the smotheringly conventional and sexually-repressed wife who effectively drives her husband into her sister’s arms and then is determined to yank him back out of them. Although one would think that Daniel Day Lewis would have had to have been first preference for the part of Rickie, Bettany does a very good job, portraying a classically English type, too weak to act on his desires and ultimately becoming but an idealized memory for both women.

Despite the overall tonal glumness the film creates a convincing portrait of the times thanks to meticulous production values and skilled cinematography whilst Nicholas Hooper provides a resonant score to what in the old days would have been called “a woman’s picture”.




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