SXSW 2018: A Bluebird in My Heart Review
Danny is an ex-con trying to move on with his life. After getting out of prison he finds a home in the form of a room at a hotel run by Laurence, a single mom, and her daughter Clara. When the daughter is brutally assaulted, the person Danny once was resurfaces as he decides to take matters into his own hands. He does what he thinks is right, even if it means going back to jail. A Bluebird in My Heart is a dark dramatic film that is as touching as it is shocking.
Bluebird in My Heart is the first feature from Jérémie Guez who wrote the screenplay based off of the novel from Dannie M. Martin. Guez gives us characters with layers, whether it is Clara who is a teen who likes to get into trouble caused by her difficulty dealing with her father being in jail or Laurence who is trying to keep the hotel in business and also rein in her daughter.
Danny is the person we find out the least about which makes his character the most intriguing. Roland Møller (COMMUTER,PAPILLON) plays Danny with sharp subtly. He is able to convey the emotions of Danny through slight variations in his facial expressions. Danny always seems cool and collected, even when the situation is intense. Lola Le Lann’s Clara, on the other hand, is a teen who you can tell likes to press buttons and, as her mother puts it, plays games. Lann brings does excellent in conveying a girl who is trying to play it cool on the surface, but you can tell underneath it she is hurting because of the situation with her parents. The father/daughter type relationship that develops between the two reminded me a lot of the relationship between Leon and Mathilda in the movie Leon.
The cinematography Dimitri Karakatsanis helps set the world the characters live in. There are a lot of visual textures such as the filthy kitchen where Danny ends up working, or the wide empty lot that the characters are continuingly crossing back and forth to get to the hotel. Shots in the hotel give the feeling of being limited or trapped. The washed-out colors used help add to the dark tone of the story. There are a few action scenes that were handled very well. One such scene involved Danny driving a speeding car that I thought was particularly well shot and it moved me to the edge of my seat.
Another thing that I thought was handled very well was the assault scene in the film. Guez is careful not to push the scene visually too far but close enough to the edge to keep the intensity of the act being portrayed. In fact, the whole sequence leading up to that moment and the aftermath is some of the best direction and editing in the film. There are some bloody moments, but they are few and far between and there is some brief nudity. Guez makes sure the focus never leaves the relationship of Danny and Clara which helps the viewer feel connected to these characters, especially Danny, which is important when it comes to the climax.
A Bluebird in My Heart is a slow burn drama that packs an emotional punch. Though it is a familiar story, it is well crafted, sharply directed and excellently acted. I highly recommend it to those looking for a dark but not bleak drama and fans of Leon.