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Hearts And Bones

Hearts And Bones (Ben Lawrence, 2019) wr. Beatrix Christian, Ben Lawrence; Hugo Weaving, Andrew Luri, Hayley McElhinney, Bolude Watson (Ben Lawrence is the son of Ray Lawrence) festivals incl. TIFF, then released digitally, due to pandemic; won Best Director at the ADG awards 2020

Technical aspects of this film are very good, and the acting is excellent. Three of the four key actors were quite rightly nominated for AACTAs: Weaving, Luri, and Watson. McElhinney is good, but on the same screen with Weaving, in which situation other thesps routinely become invisible.

(By the way, there is an opportunity here to compare the acting of two leads who were acting for the first time: Luri here, and Hamilton Morris in Sweet Country, who won Best Actor at the 2018 AACTAs, while, as I've said, Luri was not successful. Morris is what we now apparently have to call a 'First Nation person'; Luri is Sudanese. He is a much better actor.)

I experienced some narratological confusion. The film begins with what I suppose is a 'prologue' in Iraq. This establishes the lifestyle and the nature of the protagonist, Dan Fisher (Weaving) but is inappropriate in that the key event in the film has occurred in South Sudan, not Iraq. The image from this prologue is reviewed towards the end, but doesn't make any more sense in narrative terms.

There is a dinner party in the middle of the story which should have presented the scriptwriters with the opportunity for the main discussion by third parties about what happened to the central character Sebastian (Andrew Luri). But it is glossed over and obscured by a secondary topic, the Fishers' pregnancy.

Finally, the conclusion comes too quickly and without adequate preparation. Some months have passed unshown before the final scenes suddenly occur, and they are therefore somewhat surprising and unsatisfactory, though emotively right in terms of the film's narrative arc.

The film concludes with a montage of photographs which attempts to suggest that it has been concerned with refugeeism - while this is not in fact the case: it is about the moral effects of war on its participants and victims.

Promotional blurb:
In Ben Lawrence's beautifully acted debut feature, a war photographer Hugo Weaving and a refugee Andrew Luri discover a photograph that threatens to destroy them both. Dan Fisher returns home, and despite his partner's protests, prepares for his next dangerous overseas assignment. At the same time, he is preparing for an upcoming retrospective exhibition of his work from the world's war zones. South Sudanese refugee, Sebastian Ahmed has built a life in Australia, living happily with his wife and young child. When he learns that Daniel's exhibition may display photographs of a massacre in Sebastian's village 15 years earlier, he finds Daniel and appeals to him to exclude those photographs. An unlikely friendship develops between the two men, but it is severely tested when Daniel makes a shocking discovery. Hearts and Bones centres around the relationship of these two men, from very different backgrounds, who bond over their shared trauma. Andrew Luri, who has never acted before and was driving a garbage truck when he auditioned for the role, and Hugo Weaving both brilliantly convey the intricate relationship between the men. With these two powerful performances at its centre, Ben Lawrence has made an intelligent, morally complex and deeply moving film.

Nominations for the 2019 AACTAs: Best Lead Actor (Hugo Weaving), Best Supporting Actor (Andrew Luri), Best Supporting Actress (Bolude Watson).

Eddie Cockrell:
Time spent in a modern war zone can be traumatic for participant and observer alike, yet across continents and cultures, the shared experiences of living and loving in the wake of such experiences can be startlingly similar. This is multi-faceted and overarching theme woven throughout Ben Lawrence’s sensitive and affecting new Australian drama Hearts and Bones, an impressive narrative feature debut from the winner of last year’s Sydney Film Festival documentary prize for Ghosthunter. Eddie Cockrell, Variety. [He spends almost all of the 'review' retelling the story.]

Brian Tallerico:
... a film about the gray area of photojournalism in war-torn parts of the world. As someone asks near the end of Ben Lawrence’s effective debut Hearts and Bones, how would you feel if someone was there photo documenting the worst day of your life? You’d hate it, but we come to accept it as a part of journalism around the world, as we have seen countless of life-worst days from places like Syria, for example. Some of the narrative twists in Hearts and Bones don’t completely work for me, especially the ending, but there’s a lot to like here in terms of how it handles a complex emotional issue with empathy and compassion, particularly through its four strong leading performances. Brian Tallerico.

Garry Gillard | New: 22 November, 2019 | Now: 20 October, 2020