The Violent Heart is a film that doesn’t enjoy its own silences. Most melodramas—and this is no doubt a certifiable member of the maudlin club—are loud and persuasive with a background score that announces the emotions on screen from miles away. The Violent Heart keeps it all under check, all bottled up and ready to explode. The emotions are a raging fire burning inside the characters, some of whom have terrible secrets which they have been hiding for years. The sleepy small-town ambience lulls us into a false sense of wellbeing.
The opening is violent. The hero Daniel (Jovan Adepo) sees his sister being murdered in the woods when he is barely old enough to understand what is happening. The incident naturally colours his life. The Colour reminds me, Daniel is a Black man. I bring this to notice because the film never makes a mention of his colour even when he falls in love with a beautiful white girl Cassie (Grace Van Patten).
They are on the same wavelength from the minute they meet. They get along smoothly and for all practical purposes, are made for each other. So what’s the problem? That’s the question Daniel’s young brother Aaron (Jahi Di'Allo Winston) asks his brother with all the wisdom of an adolescent.
As I said, the colour of their skin is not an issue. The problem here is not skin deep at all. It is something else. Something far more disturbing and immoral. When the issues come bubbling to the surface it is too late to cork the bottle. Before the film ends the accusations and allegations are hurled back and forth. Guns are fired, egos were wounded.
There seems little of the control that was evident earlier when the plot was trying to find a voice for its hero Daniel. Or when he tries to explore the love angle in Cassie’s arms. Daniel’s love relationship with his kid brother also has a certain rhythm and grace lacking in the latter parts of the narrative when it all comes undone.
Lukas Haas playing Cassie’s father emerges as the dark figure and the one that kills all the sunshine in the story. Lukas’s Joseph is a curiously uni-dimensional character in a film that encourages ambivalence in its character. He is not only the heroine’s father but also her English teacher. His fall from grace is therefore doubly disgraceful. Don’t say you didn’t see it coming. The man is up to no good from the start.
Before the end, he is on the floor grappling like a cheap villain from a slasher film. Lukas Haas is a fine actor. But this film has nothing dignified to offer him. His villainy brings not only his character down but also diminishes the slow-burn impact of the sleepy-town romance with some lovely performances.
Directed by Karem Sanga, The Violent Heart gets 2 stars!
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