Junkhearts Review

Like a dog lying in a corner, Junkhearts will bite you and never warn you.

Screenwriter Simon Frank’s debut feature film begins with an extreme close up Wayne Campbell would have been proud of, as the camera pulls back to reveal a middle aged man with bad skin hyperventilating to the cusp of a panic attack.

If only he knew the secret healing properties Dead Sea minerals hold for his condition.

Sadly, even these wouldn’t do much good for former army man, Frank, whose genuine affliction are the ghosts of his past deeds he simply cannot escape.

Self destruction is the order of Frank’s day, which he routinely achieves with habitual trips to his local London newsagents for his daily dose of cigarettes and alcohol.

Frank’s failure to deal with his past has also driven away his future, with his wife and young daughter having left him long ago; alienated by Frank’s dedication to drinking his pain away.

But Frank hasn’t lost himself entirely, and when he stumbles upon a seemingly down and out runaway outside his one stop shop, he invites her into his home and away from the streets of London.

Staying in the bedroom of his estranged daughter that he’s preserved since she left, both Frank and his new flatmate, Lynette, begin to heal from the demons of their past; until the looming spectre of Lynette’s present throws their shared solace dangerously out of equilibrium.

From the grittily authentic ensemble performances, to Tinge Krishnan’s composed cinematography that perfectly capture the night time thrills and dangers of inner city London life, Junkhearts has much to commend it.

Eddie Marsan follows up his disturbing turn in Tyrannosaur with another tormented portrayal as Frank, a man who can not forgive the demons he’s created.

Candese Reid, who won the Best British Newcomer Award at this year’s London Film Festival, is genuinely believable as Lynette; the street urchin who’s learned how to take care of herself on the streets, yet yearns for a little parental guidance.

And Tom Sturridge is suitably menacing as Danny, who threatens both Frank and Lynette’s newly formed family unit.

Yet by Junkhearts climax, the film’s grip on reality has been replaced by an increasingly irrational narrative structure. So actions that make little sense become commonplace, and the authentic world skilfully crafted in the first half of the film slowly dissolves.

Particularly the closing scenes, where they spot weld a bizarre happy ending onto Junkhearts that simply doesn’t add up and actually stains what went before.

So unless you have nothing else to do, don’t live like Junkhearts.

Jonathan Campbell

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November 2011
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