Psychological thrillers might be the most effective genre of film when it comes to stories and questions plaguing the viewer’s head for days after viewing. One must however be a little cautious, as this effect can be easily watered down if a director isn’t careful enough and their psychological thriller slips ever so slightly into the horror genre.
Such is somewhat the case with “Hungry Hearts”. It is a film that begins light and cheeky with two lovebirds, one from a foreign country of course, accidentally meeting in an embarrassing situation and soon after falling in love, tying the knot, and having a child. Soon after however, the film slowly creeps into more sinister territory and gives into its inner darkness come its second half.
“My wife doesn’t really trust doctors.”
And this distrust is important to note as it provides this film with its main conflict. Upon our lovebirds Mina and Jude discovering that Mina is with child, Jude is ecstatic that she can marry him and that she no longer needs to move back to Italy for work. However, it is only upon handling Mina’s pregnancy and ultimately raising her child that the two begin to encounter their biggest issues. There are thousands of ways, many of them published, to properly raise a child- but Mina’s sworn method of avoiding medicine and placing the child on a vegan diet in pursuit of absolute purity is certainly not one of them.
The concept of such an obsession tearing two parents apart is certainly one director Saverio Costanzo tries to be very careful with, and this is to some avail. The manner in which Mina’s character is portrayed is far more paranoid and delusional as opposed to overtly psychotic, which is refreshing. This said, the aforementioned tendency for films like this to slip into horror mode definitely kicks in towards the film’s end, carried out for one example by unsettling wide angle fish-eye shots over the child, representative of Mina’s point of view. Choices like these (of which there are several more) paint her character as demonic and evil, whereas every other aspect of the film does well to avoid this cliche.
The excellent performances of Alba Rohrwacher and Adam Driver make it all the more heartbreaking that directorial choices like the previous example are prevalent in the film’s intense second half. For all the film’s cinematography might do however to paint Mina and Jude as “psycho” versus “innocent straight man”, the Rohrwacher and Driver are very much able to hold their own and make their performances feel as genuine as possible.
Just because this film falls victim to becoming more horror than psychological thriller towards the end, credit is deserved in that it doesn’t turn into any sort of fright fest. “Hungry Hearts” remains stellar in concept and pretty great for the most part in execution.
Runtime: 1 hr 49 min