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The relationship of a couple who meet by chance in New York City is put to the test when they encounter a life or death circumstance.

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Hungry Hearts movie full length review - Powerful if Divisive Drama

Judging by the comments of previous reviewers, Saverio Costanzo's film has divided reviewers and audiences alike.

Perhaps this is due to its combination of tones: the apparently artless beginning that does not prepare us in any way for the film's major issue, that of how to reconcile one's inner beliefs with the realities of bringing up a child. Or perhaps it's because of the desperate measures adopted by the child's grandmother (Roberta Maxwell) in an attempt to ensure the child's future welfare. Some have dismissed them as melodramatic: one wonders what they might do in a similar situation.

The main point at issue here is one of obsession: Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) believes that her newly-born son is somehow special and needs to be "protected" from supposedly corrupting influences such as doctors, red meat or sunlight. The fact that this results in the child's attenuated growth is a side-effect. Her husband Jude (Adam Driver) tries to make her see reason (as he perceives it), but fails to do so. Director Costanzo invites us to reflect on the morality of both protagonists - is one "right" and the other "wrong"? Or are there other issues involved here?

What gives the film its particular resonance is its style. Very little music appears on the soundtrack - except at the end; hence we as viewers are not guided into making a specific response to what we see. Fabio Cianchetti's camera is fond of consciously out-of-focus shots, transforming the characters into other-worldly beings rather than New Yorkers. This strategy reminds us quite powerfully of how anyone departing from ideological or social behavioral norms is invariably dismissed as "deviant." Sometimes this visual technique seems excessive - as for example, when Mina is shot in such a way as to emphasize a large head and skinny body - but we can understand the purpose behind it.

In this kind of film, it is difficult to maintain some sense of dramatic balance. All credit, then, to the three protagonists, whose performances seem inspired by the situations contained in the screenplay, and refrain from dramatic or gestural excesses.