SXSW may have ended, but I’ve got some final thoughts regarding one of the last films I saw at the festival. (Reviews and such will be incoming soon as well.)
The movie is called The Heart Machine, but this might be the most “take it or leave it” film I’ve seen so far at SXSW. It’s not a bad movie. It’s well acted. It is among the more modern takes on a romantic drama to emerge in some time, as I believe some have already noted. It’s funny at times, it touches on some important emotional ideas, and deals very realistically with the struggles of long distance relationships. So why a I not more enthused?
The short answer is this feels like an early draft of a project rather than a final product. There basic premise is that Cody and Virginia (played by John Gallagher, Jr. and Kate Lyn Sheil, respectively) are in a long distance relationship, except that Cody begins to suspect Virginia isn’t actually in Germany like she says she is. This creates some cool tension, especially for Cody between trying to be fully invested in the relationship and the trauma of trying to confirm the suspicion that the girl he’s been dating for the last four months has been playing him for laughs. The trouble comes in that we don’t see enough of either of their lives (the movie is revealed from both perspectives) for them to come across as real human beings. Their actions don’t feel motivated, or at least we never come to understand enough of those motivations. Both characters are missing friends with whom to discuss, and thereby reveal, their issues. Even if we saw them hide what was going on from their friends, that would be something.
All this means the final film seems like it should be of consequence, but doesn’t actually feel like it is. I won’t give away spoilers, although discussing this movie virtually requires them because it’s all plot. And maybe that’s where the problem is, the reason it feels lacking. There’s plenty that happens, but we’re missing too much of the why. It’s too bad, because this is a movie that still kept me moderately entertained in its current state, and might really have been something special if it had been honed to more of an edge.