REVIEW: Hungry Hearts

30 06 2015

Hungry HeartsSaverio Costanzo’s “Hungry Hearts” pits two philosophies of child-rearing against each other to haunting effect.  After a meet-cute while trapped in the restroom of a Chinese restaurant, Adam Driver’s Jude and Alba Rohrwacher’s Mina begin a relationship that inadvertently spawns a child (and thus a marriage). Jude indulges some of his wife’s whims while pregnant, assuming she will return to a less heightened state of being once she delivers.

But Mina only firms in her resolve to practice unconventional and hyper-protective parenting once their child is born.  She wants the baby on a vegan diet and cannot bear the thought of him leaving the house and receiving exposure to the outside world’s toxicity.  After nine months protecting him in a womb, she feels the need to extend that shelter.  In other words, Mina is the kind of enlightened ignoramus who reads one email and decides not to vaccinate her child.

In theory, helicopter parenting has the best of intentions, but Jude sees its negative externalities whenever the baby appears malnourished and underweight.  Parenting quickly becomes a competition, not a collaboration, as Jude starts taking definitive steps to ensure the security of his offspring.  The claws come out as the couple manipulates the legal system to get their way with the child.

This duel of the fates feels so momentous because of the powerful acting of Adam Driver, who recalls vintage DeNiro in his releases of righteous aggression.  Many roles over the past three years have hinted at this pent-up rage, and “Hungry Hearts” finally provides the vessel for it to reach the surface.  Rohrwacher, while spookily compelling in her own right, far too often relies on playing an absent-minded fruit loop to really give her on-screen counterpart a run for his money.

Costanzo’s film mostly matches their intensity, though hints at a supernatural dimension like “Rosemary’s Baby” that he never intends to portray get a little frustrating.  His film is at its best when the camera, with shakiness and grain, captures the unbearable tension and claustrophobia between two radically different people tied together by the one thing that drives them apart.  B+3stars

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