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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 06.05.15] thriller drama

They say you'll do anything to protect your children but what happens and what do you do when you're trying to protect your newborn from a mother who believes she's taking care of her baby but is actually slowly killing it? That conundrum is at the centre of Saverio Costanzo's new movie Hungry Hearts.

Based on Marco Franzoso's novel, it's the story of Jude and Mina (Adam Driver of current "Girls" fame and co-star of the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Italian star Alba Rohrwacher respectively). The movie opens with their meeting: a hilarious and true to life chance encounter in a very tiny bathroom. They end up together, soon find themselves pregnant which leads to marriage and that's when the happy façade begins to melt away. Soon after finding out she's pregnant, Mina begins to act strangely; she stops eating, she becomes obsessed with cleanliness and is pretty much convinced that the doctors don't know what they're doing.

Things get worse after the baby is born. The couple slowly floats away from their friends, Mina and the baby essentially become shut-ins (the germs!) and Jude finds himself in the tough spot of going against his wife in order to protect their small child. As Hungry Hearts progresses, it slowly morphs from drama to psychological horror with elements of paranoia, claustrophobia and down right insanity.

Music often plays a large part in horror movies but Hungry Hearts features little in the way of music or score to help generate mood and atmosphere but Costanzo and cinematographer Fabio Cianchetti make excellent use of the apartment which seems to shrink as the movie progresses. As Mina unravels, the camera angles also become more extreme at one point becoming so extreme that Mina begins to narrow and almost disappear in front of the camera. It's unnerving, very unsettling and completely successful.

Hungry Hearts isn't without problems, most notably the plotting which has Jude waiting what seems to be a ridiculous amount of time before taking action against his wife. For what seems like months he's leaving his son at home with a woman he knows is hurting his son and he does little about it beyond feeding his son behind his wife's back. He does eventually act, but it feels like he does so too late. There's also the fact that we never really figure out what makes Mina act the way she does. We dont' learn much about her besides the fact that she's alone (whether that means alone in NY or has no family at all we never find out). Was she always a little off or was this something that manifested only when she became pregnant - and why?

They're minor complaints that don't manifest until after the credits roll because during the movie, the ensuing drama is tremendously engaging in large part because of Rohrwacher and Driver's compelling performances.

It feels a little like the descent into madness of Rosemary's Baby and though there's no supernatural angle, Hungry Hearts is very much like that movie's contemporary: a slowburn tale of mental breakdown that ends with a shocking turn.

Hungry Hearts opens theatrically in NY and is available on VOD on June 5. It expands to LA on June 12.

Recommended Release: Rosemary's Baby

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