Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) randomly get stuck in the bathroom of a Chinese restaurant, and from then on, their lives are changed. The two fall in love, get a place together, get pregnant, and, well, wouldn’t you know it? They end up getting married! It’s great for these two young kids, and for awhile, they seem to be getting along quite fine. They have a child, and while Mina and Jude originally seem to be on the same page of how to raise it, what to give it to eat, etc., eventually, that all begins to change. Once Jude finds out from a doctor that all of the vegetables and non-protein foods that Mina is feeding their baby isn’t allowing for it to grow at the right pace it should be, he decides to take matters into his own hands where he feeds the kid all sorts of delicious treats like ham, turkey, and sugars – all of which Mina is totally against. This leads to a battle of wits and actual displays of violence that pit Jude and Mina against one another, all with their precious little baby in the middle of it.
Don’t be fooled by the Bruce Springsteen title here, people: Hungry Hearts is no picnic to get through. But somehow, I think that’s the point. Writer/director Saverio Costanzo takes a premise that would give off all sorts of insights that were so prevalent in Blue Valentine, and yet, take it a step further, in trying to talk less about messed-up relationships that don’t fit together well, and focus more on the fact that the people in the relationships themselves are messed-up to begin with, hence the reason as to why the relationship isn’t quite working out in the first place.
Like I said, happy stuff.
What’s initially interesting about Hearts, is that it doesn’t ever seem like it’s trying to make full sense of this romance and show how these two lovebirds are absolutely, positively made for one another. Instead, the movie goes on to show that while they may be pleasant together, the circumstances in which they met and eventually came together to get married, weren’t at all ideal. Then again, not everybody’s relationship is ideal if you think about it, but here, with Mina and Jude’s, it especially so in a way that helps the movie’s style in which nothing is glamorized in any sort of fashion. What you see on the screen, is literally what you get, warts and all.
That said, there’s something odd about Hearts from where it starts off as an insightful romantic-drama, to something in the same vein as Rosemary’s Baby. What starts to come into play in the later-half of this movie is literally a constant game of cat-and-mouse between Mina and Jude, which I will admit, does grab attention to itself, but at the same time, feels like something from a whole, entirely different movie. Though it’s hardly ever mentioned, there’s a slight idea going around in this film that Mina’s family has a long history of mental illness and because of this, she acts out in ways that could literally be classified as “insane”.
Once again, the movie utters maybe a line or two about this idea and that’s about it.
Which is definitely weird, not because it seems to come out of nowhere, but because the movie seems to lose all hope in saying anything interesting with its plot. Jude is passionate about saving his baby’s life and will do anything to keep that so, whereas Mina is just a crazy lady who wants to constantly feed her baby nothing but veggies, regardless of whether or not it’s killing it. That’s basically it and while it’s tense to see how Jude reacts to Mina in certain situations, at the same time, it feels like a disappointment considering the places this movie could have gone and definitely seemed to promise on and on about.
But if there is something that made this last-half, if somewhat believable to watch when it was easy to get through all of the crazy nonsense, are the two performances from Driver and Rohrwacher, both of whom seem very committed to this material, even if they are a bit too good for it. Driver, like usual, finds ways to challenge himself and step outside the boundaries made for him by Girls, and with Jude, he does a great job. While Jude is, at times, a very frustrating character by how much of a pushover he can be when it comes to how to raise his own child, there’s still a feeling of honest love that’s felt whenever he’s on-screen, and it helps his character be more likable throughout, even if you do want to ring his neck at certain points.
Something I’m pretty sure many people feel while watching him on Girls, but it’s still slightly different.
Believe it or not, though, it’s Rohrwacher who actually steals the show a bit from Driver, as she really seems to giving it her absolute all, even if the script doesn’t seem to be too bothered with her doing that. What I mean by this is that the movie seems to categorize her as nothing more than “a villain”, and while this isn’t a false idea to have when looking at her and her actions, it still seems like too harsh of a judgement. Rather than being well-rounded and making Mina’s convictions seem somewhat justified in her own nutty way, the movie instead just goes right ahead and points the finger at her. Not saying that she doesn’t deserve it, but after awhile, it became abundantly clear that the movie wasn’t looking for much more insight into this character.
However, that’s why Rohrwacher’s performance is so good, because we get to see certain shades to this character that the script may not have even had at first. Whereas Mina’s a nervous wreck just about every second of every day, Rohrwacher shows that it’s literally a battle she is having with herself, rather than her just lashing out and loving every bit of it. Even when she starts committing terrible actions to her baby, it comes out of a soft spot of love and compassion that, while you may not at all agree with, is understandable. Once again, not condoning any of this woman’s actions, but when put into perspective, it make sense why she acts the way she does.
Simply put, she’s crazy. That’s it.
Consensus: Despite a drastic tonal-shift about half-way through, Hungry Hearts benefits from two solid performances that make the movie hit harder than it probably should have.
6 / 10