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  • Alex First

Hearts and Bones (M) - 110 minutes

A photographer who has covered the world’s trouble spots and suffers badly from PTSD befriends a hardworking Sudanese man with a secret traumatic past.

Hearts and Bones is a heavy hitting drama with a feel-good ending, but more of that later.

Daniel Fisher (Hugo Weaving) is an acclaimed war photographer with a long-term ballet teacher partner, Josie Avril (Haley McElhinney).

He ups and leaves for long stretches and she keeps the home fires burning.

In the past she had been pregnant and lost that baby.

Upon his return from his latest assignment she drops the news that she is with child again, although he is less than enamoured with the idea.

They are preparing for an upcoming exhibition of his work when he is confronted by a taxi driver, Sebastian Aman (Andrew Luri), a South Sudanese refugee.

Aman wants Fisher to photograph members of a community choir – all survivors of war.

He isn’t interested, but then matters take a turn.

As Fisher gets to know Aman and his pregnant wife, Anishka Ahmed (Bolude Watson), he can see how drawn Aman is to owning a patch of land he can call his own.

But he is also hiding a dark secret.

Co-written (with Beatrix Christian) and directed by Ben Lawrence, he was inspired by a dramatic and disturbing photograph he saw at a Sydney exhibition.

That, along with a campaign he worked on for Amnesty International, which exposed him to recently arrived refugees.

While I was impressed by the characterisation of the four principal characters, I could feel myself being manipulated and picked much of the trajectory of the picture before the final act.

That is when Hearts and Bones became most interesting. An unexpected shock gave it a decided – and, I would argue, much-needed – lift.

I greatly appreciated the grizzled intensity that Weaving brought to the taciturn and troubled snapper.

As not a trained actor, there was no pretension about Luri, which suited the role. He comes across as natural and authentic.

Fortunately, McElhinney and Watson – as Fisher and Aman’s partners – are not merely cast as “handbags”. They are admirably real and are given substantial parts.

While not without merit, I found the Hearts and Bones’ finale too convenient.

I feel a negative ending – as unpopular as it may have been – would have had greater impact and been more appropriate to the material.

Instead, the message the film conveys is that in the wake of untold horror hope springs eternal, which I dare say many will appreciate.

Rated MA, it scores a 7 out of 10.

It is available on iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, Sony PlayStation, Telstra and Fetch TV on 6th May, 2020.

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