“Refreshing, scary, frustrating.”
To love is easy but to live with it is not. In Saverio Constanzo’s Hungry Hearts, we will witness how a young love, which unfolded quite happily, becomes scarred with modern living and ended in a haunting and frustrating note.
The movie’s introduction, shot continuously for roughly six minutes, is comic and mesmerizing as two people become trapped inside a small bathroom in a Chinese restaurant. Italian girl Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) and New Yorker Jude (Adam Driver) instantly hit off despite his diarrheal attack which scented the blossoming of their romance. Few takes forward and the couple are now dancing to the tune of “Flashdance…. What a Feeling” and banging on a kitchen counter.
However, their marriage life together is tested when Mina insists on New Age living – freedom from radiation, dirt, impurities and contaminations. She even has her childbirth performed in a little swimming pool. To make matters worse, Mina feeds the baby with vegan food, resulting to its failure to grow. She becomes even more disturbed, coercing Jude and his sharp-tongue mother Anne (Roberta Maxwell) to join forces and separate the child away from Mina. However, their action backfires and the film ends in a shocking yet disappointing conclusion.
Hungry Hearts successfully crosses several genres – comedy, romance, drama, horror and thriller. There is a fluid and graceful transition between genres that only a seasoned director like Saverio Constanzo can do. Constanzo has amazing control of emotions and pacing. There is no excessiveness that would make us roll out eyes in disbelief. There is just perfect timing and balance among elements. That unexpected gunshot towards the end is the most horrific moment. Anyone’s heart would skip a beat, wondering who would spill blood after that.
The movie is also wonderfully written that Mina’s transformation is subtle and unnoticeable. It strikes as natural and ordinary that we could only empathize with her. She is never portrayed as cruel or evil; she is just naïve and afraid that she sees the modern world as threatening. Thanks partly to Rohrwacher for bringing the different shades of Mina. She is brilliant from beginning to end as she transformed from a quirky and lovely lady to a troubled and frustrated mother. Driver keeps up with her as the loving and tolerant husband. Yet, he shows dimensions as he adjusts to his wife’s changes. And Maxwell is simply perfect as the overprotective mother and the fanatical in-law.
However, the film’s ending is somewhat mismanaged and unwise which most would find unsatisfactory. Instead of dealing intelligently with Mina’s illness, the movie opts for a safer yet more intriguing conclusion – safer because killing Mina is an easier way to put the story to rest, and intriguing because it leaves us dazed, breathless and stupefied. It would have been more moving, inspiring and positively stirring if the movie turned the other way around.
Still, Hungry Hearts is a great film to watch. It is fresh and unique and unquestionably captivating all throughout.