My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is directed by Jonathan Cuartas and stars Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous, First Man), Ingrid Sophie Schram (Phantom Thread) and Owen Campbell (As You Are, The Miseducation of Cameron Post). The film follows siblings Dwight (Patrick Fugit) and Jessie (Ingrid Sophie Schram) who put all their energy into caring for their little brother Thomas (Owen Campbell). The catch is that Thomas needs human blood to survive.
While clearly a spin on the traditional vampire mythos, the supernatural takes a backseat to the plight of the siblings, which is the major dynamic around which the film develops. Dwight and Jessie are caught in what can only be described as a lose-lose situation. Caring for Thomas, the pair hunt down the unmissed and undesirables of today’s society; the homeless, the hookers, and those whose disappearance wouldn’t cause most to bat an eye. Draining their victims of their blood and disposing of their remains slowly takes its emotional and physical toll on the pair, especially with Thomas dealing with teenage angst and Jessie dealing with some jealously, desiring Dwight’s absolute loyalty and devotion to their family unit as his heart begins to wander. As this clearly unsustainable existence slowly starts to show signs of entropy, an unexpected series of events leads to trouble for the three.
My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a sad film. It is a journey through unimaginable misery reaching its unavoidable end. It feels like the tail-end of a much longer, darker drama that is only now allowing us a glimpse of what was clearly a hard, cracked road strewn with death and morbidity. How Dwight and Jessie managed to hold onto what little humanity they have at the film’s onset is a testament to the willpower of the characters, though Dwight clearly has a little more left than his sister. This is not a heartwarming or even an exciting tale–it is not here to offer jumpscares and fantastic creatures…My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To sets out, rather, to stir up emotions and to make you feel. What emotions are aroused within you will be subjective, but I’d wager that amongst them would be despair, disgust, sympathy, and perhaps sorrow.
There is little to fault when it comes to the technical aspects of the film. The cinematography and editing were fine, as were the camerawork and the score. Nothing was particularly standout or exceptional and we only have a handful of locations to explore. There were some fast-paced scenes towards the film’s climax, but for the most part, it is a slow burn that focuses more on atmosphere and character development more than it does action and adrenaline. A slow burn would be nothing without good writing and solid character development, which My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To thankfully has. The film succeeds primarily due to the casting, the acting, and the on-screen chemistry between our ill-fated trio. It really is hard to say who did the better job as Fugit, Schram, and Campbell all deliver outstanding performances; each unique and compelling but completely different in nature from the other. The one thing that they all did have in common was that struggle forward in the face of hopelessness, each representing that struggle from a different perspective. If you watch this film for no other reason, let it be for these powerhouse performances.
My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is not your Friday night popcorn horror. It’s not a mindless session of jumpscares with the Warrens or a sexy tale of vampiric blood orgies. It is a depressing tale of family and loyalty versus morality and murder. It is a theme heavy film meant to make you think and feel. If that sounds like something that would get your blood pumping, be ready to catch its release when it comes to Digital Download from June 28th. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. Trailer and poster below.
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