Actors: Adam Driver, Alba Rohrwacher
Director: Saverio Costanzo
Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
Region: Region 1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: MPI Home Video
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Run Time: 113 minutes
Even after completing Hungry Hearts, I’m not entirely clear on what type of film writer/director Saverio Costanzo intended to make; what begins with a scene that suggests a subtle romance slowly sinks into a schizophrenic narrative about mental illness unable to decide whether it is a thriller or a drama. Even when it seems clear that the screenplay would have us treat the material as somber melodrama, the music and stylistic camera choices that Costanzo use suggest that Hungry Hearts a psychological horror film in the tradition of 1970s Roman Polanski. Either way that I consider the film, it doesn’t work for me, though I will admit that elements of the narrative certainly succeeded in leaving me unnerved.
Beginning with an awkward meet-cute in a restaurant bathroom, Hungry Hearts starts like an ordinary romance, assuming you can ignore the later germ-obsessed female lead never making mention of the fact that the male protagonist forgets to wash his hands after two explosive visits to the restaurant toilet. This strange scene transitions into a sparse collection of sequences showing the quick advancement of the relationship between Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher). Before long they are married and expecting a child, which is when their relationship begins to crumble. By refusing us the clarity of information prior to this point, Costanzo is able to make Mina’s change in behavior after the pregnancy appear to be a complete surprise, though the irrationality of her character may have had more impact if it didn’t seem to come out of left field.
Once pregnant, Mina develops a series of theories and ideas about her child’s health. Her dedication to veganism along with an obsessive paranoia about doctors and outside medical help makes the pregnancy difficult and the birth of their son something of a miracle. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning of their troubles. When Mina’s refusal to follow the doctor’s advice leads to serious health risks for their child, Jude must choose between the safety of his son and supporting his unstable wife in her decisions. Hospital visits are done on the sly and Jude must sneak around behind his wife in order to feed his son necessary nutrients.
This is where Costanzo backs the narrative into a corner, leading to an inevitable ending which simultaneously feels a bit like a cop-out. Prior to this rushed resolution in the final moments of the film, there are many repetitious scenes of Jude and Mina arguing about the same issues. The claustrophobic feel of the cinematography, a moody soundtrack, and an over-reaching performance from Roberta Maxwell as Jude’s protective mother give the second half of Hungry Hearts the feel of a psychological thriller. The tension continues to build until Costanzo relieves it with his rushed resolution, seemingly ending before the audience has time to wonder what the point of it all was.
Entertainment Value: 3/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 4.5/10
Historical Significance: 3/10