Sunday, February 21, 2021

Hearts Want

Directed by Jason P. Schumacher.
2017. Not Rated, 15 minutes.
Cast: Sam Simmons, Peter Christian Hansen, Noah Gillett, David Corral.    

     About a month ago I was asked to watch and review a short film written by a fellow blogger, Ruth at FlixChatter. Ruth and I have been reading each other's blogs for years, but somehow I didn't know that she'd done this. Of course, I told her I would watch it that weekend and review it. Well, I watched it. I just never got around to the writing part of it. A couple of weeks passed and, well, I wasn't comfortable enough to just start typing out my thoughts, so I watched it again. It's only 15 minutes long, so no sweat. And now I'm ready. 

    Things start with a bit of narration telling us, more or less, it all must have meant something. We then meet Lily (Simmons) and Jacques (Hansen) the stars of a play with the same title as the film we're watching. We learn that they came up through the ranks together in various acting classes. Lily has gone on to have a career in the field, while Jacques seems to have partied his away. They're both doing this play at the request of Martin, their favorite teacher who is dying. We also find out they once had a romantic relationship. To say anything more would be heading into spoiler territory, so I'll leave it at that.

    The opening of Hearts Want does a great job establishing who these two people are and their connection. We really feel the years between them. The dialogue feels true. This is a strong point throughout the film's runtime. What these characters have to say to each other is organic, even when it's cutting to the bone. The drawback is the runtime, speeding us up from one stage of their relationship to the next. However, it handles this well enough to keep us in the moment. The only piece of writing that struck me as unnecessary is the opening narration. It says nothing the rest of the film doesn't say as it plays out. Our experience as viewers would be unchanged without it.

    As solid as the writing is, the film leans heavily on its actors. Luckily, they deliver. Sam Simmons is particularly strong in the role of Lily. She always seems to be brimming with emotion, but doesn't bubble over until the right time. Much is said with her eyes, but without over-the-top cues to let us know that's what she's doing. Peter Christian Hansen is showier as Jacques. While good overall, he is occasionally too aggressive. He might even be seen to be coercing Lily. Of course, some of that may be by design, but not to make Jacques unlikable in any way. It's to propel the plot. There's a lot of ground to cover and not much time to cover it.

    While watching a short film, especially a live-action one, I can't help but wonder how it can be stretched into a full-length feature. Here, a number of the answers seem obvious, but that's where the danger lies. It's a story that could very easily become predictable. The bigger issue is that it might become a tedious, humorless affair. If it avoids those pitfalls, it could become something that resonates deeply rather than just intriguing us, as it does in its current form. That said, certain things have to happen. The big one, for me, is that the aforementioned Martin becomes a full-fledged character. He does not appear here, but his voice provides the narration. Having him on the screen and showing us the bonds this version only tells us about could work wonders for the film's depth. One other character has to show up, also, but I won't mention that person's name so I don't spoil anything. 

    The other thing that has to happen is an expansion of the setting. I get that this film is operating on a limited budget, and director Jason P. Schumacher does his best by moving our two characters to various locations in and around the theater where everything takes place. However, this is suffocating and not in a good way. These are people who need time and space to recover from their interactions. Confining them to this small area turns them into rams charging full speed and head first at one another, only to stagger back a few steps and do it again. Allowing them room for contemplation, and possibly the influence of others, may take Lily and Jacques from feeling like real people to being real people.

    In its present shape, Hearts Want is a good short that manages to get in some serious character development despite its brevity. I'm looking forward to seeing how these characters and their universe are stretched and deepened. Congratulations to Ruth and her team on a job well done and good luck with bringing that full-length version to fruition.

Click here to find out how to watch Hearts Want.


  1. I liked this too. It's always fun to watch a film from a blogger you enjoy.

  2. Hello Dell! THANK YOU again for taking the time to watch this (twice!) and for offering your valuable review!

    Interesting that you said opening narration was unnecessary... there were tons of discussion about that when we were making it. I realized what Martin (the playwright) said wasn't critical to the plot, but it was the only way for me to keep his character in the film in the form of VO. In the full script, Martin is an important character so I insisted on at least introducing him in some form in the short. There's also more levity + humor throughout in the full story, but in the short, because of timing constraint we had to stick with a single tone.

    I really appreciate your feedback which I'd definitely take into account as we develop into the feature. Thanks again, Dell!

    1. I know I'm crazy late responding. Sorry about that.

      As far as the opening narration goes, for me, all the times the characters reference Martin throughout the rest of the film keep him in it. Through their conversations we fully understand how important he is. Looking forward to seeing him fully realized in the full length version.

      Glad I might have been helpful.

  3. Sweet review, Dell. It seems like I'm going to have to check this one out. Shorts are always tricky, as everyone involved has to walk that tightrope of getting it all in, but not too much, moving quickly, but not too fast, and leaving us wanting more, without having us ask 'what the Hell just happened?' Sounds like Ruth and her team pretty much nailed it. Well done!