Hungry Hearts full movie review - Interesting psychological drama with some pacing issues
Hungry Hearts. For a film that's been compared by some to a Hitchcock or Polanski film, it sure holds a disappointing rating on IMDb. Nevertheless, the film has one of the better opening scenes of recent years and presents some interesting ideas despite its plodding pace.
We meet Jude and Mina in the restroom of a Chinese restaurant. The door gets stuck and so do they. After the initial awkwardness of their predicament fades away, they bond a little and we find them in bed together the morning after. She gets a call from work back in Italy. She'll have to go back in a month or two. They have sex and before you know it, Mina's pregnant. She has a recurring dream about she and Jude having sex when she suddenly hears a gunshot. It's a deer, killed by a distant hunter with a rifle. After the baby arrives, she retreats into her own private world more and more, seeking to protect the baby from all outside influence. Unfortunately, this also means no meat, no doctors, etc. When this starts affecting the child's development, Jude becomes increasingly torn between his love for Mina and his paternal instincts.
A psychological thriller at heart, Hungry Hearts succeeds in presenting the downward slide that is Jude and Mina's relationship. The focus mostly lies with Jude, while Mina's relegated more and more to saying that what she does is best for the child. It's engaging to see Jude trying to get out of the bind he's in: he wants to maintain his bond with Mina while also doing what's best for the child's health, but this becomes next to impossible as time goes by.
While Mina gets the short end of the narrative stick for the bulk of the film, the story does intriguingly hint at where her (assumedly) postnatal depression started. Rather than seeing Jude as the victim of her sudden radical change in behavior, I believe the film hints that he may be partly responsible. Firstly, consider the fact she first meets Jude in a public restroom where he just finished a?number two. It's at least ironic when you link this scene with her eventual obsession with cleanliness. Secondly, you could argue Jude rapes her when she announces her eventual return to Italy. He playfully makes love to her, grabbing her hands and saying something like 'try to get away now'. It's all fun and games until she tells him to not come inside her which he of course does. It's not 'rape' rape, but I doubt 'consensual' is a more accurate description. Basically, the love-struck Jude doesn't want to lose her, so he symbolically traps her by impregnating her. It's also not a coincidence Mina's recurring nightmare starts with them having sex, in a kitchen no less. The whole foundation of their relationship and their baby is rooted in themes of hygiene, food and entrapment with Mina having no real say in the matter.
All this and more dominates the film's excellent first half hour. Unfortunately, the film tends to get stuck in a rut after that. The film wants to build up to the decisive moment, a breaking point in Jude and Mina's struggle for their baby, but it wants to get there in a too realistically slow-paced way. We basically get the same type of scene repeated in a slightly tenser variation. Mina first relies upon Jude's trust in her regarding the baby's upbringing, but when Jude grows ever more suspicious they both rely upon deception more and more.
There's also the matter of the film's wonderful opening. I'm dead serious when I say this is the only scene in the entire film that's meant as funny and endearing. While it does an excellent job in making us like the protagonists, it's also depressing when you realize it's all downhill after that, resulting in a very serious affair that in the end conflicts stylistically with the film's naturally funny opening. I'm also conflicted regarding the ending: either it's unethical and over-the-top or it makes sense in a strange utilitarian sort of way. It's a good film regardless, though one with zero replay value.