Sunday, April 26, 2020

American Heart

Movie Name: American Heart
Year of Release: 1992
Director: Martin Bell
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Edward Furlong, Lucinda Jenney, Don Harvey, Tracey Kapisky, Melvyn Hayward, Jayne Entwistle
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6 
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Director Martin Bell has made a name for himself mostly as a documentary film maker. "American Heart" was his narrative feature debut, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 1992, and to a larger audience in May of 93 (the same year Jeff Bridges was also in Peter Weir's superlative "Fearless"). The film follows the story of Jack Kelson, who has been released from prison, on a work furlough program. He goes back to Seattle where he reunites with his teenage son, who in the meantime has been living with his aunt. Jack tries to avoid the life of crime, and takes a job as a window washer, while Nick, his son, has problems of his own at school, which prompts him to hang out with other dispossessed kids. Even if the relationship between father and son is rocky at first, they eventually settle on a plan of moving to Alaska and starting a new life there. That is until a series of misfires catches up with them, and crime comes back to gobble Jack up.
"American Heart" is a film that much like Martin Bell's documentaries, attempts to capture the realities of living on the fringe of society. How do people rebuild their lives after going through the prison system. It's also a film about a father and a son trying to build a relationship, with the parental figure initially uncertain of his own role, his legacy and his impact on the life of his offspring. While the film doesn't document uncharted territory, and for the most part, touches on a lot of topics that other films have done in the past (that same year alone, it's interesting to compare this film with Clint Eastwood's "A Perfect World" for instance), it does allow for the actors to stretch and show their range and versatility. The final chapter of this film is also its less successful moment, but the cast makes this story compelling and watchable. Jeff Bridges is, as always, phenomenal in this part, making Jack a multifaceted person, who eventually comes into his own and matures, while Edward Furlong, back then on a upward trajectory, makes Nick a young man filled with questions, but also looking for a path for his own existence. The supporting work from Lucinda Jenney (who made a brief impact on Ridley Scott's "Thelma and Louise") is solid, as is the work from the production team (and a highlight goes to the late iconic photographer Mary Ellen Mark, who photographed the lead actors for the stunning posters that accompanied the release of this film, and who was married to director Martin Bell). A film worth watching.