TIFF 2014: Hungry Hearts
The opening scene of Saverio Costanzo’s first English language film Hungry Hearts defines the meaning of situational irony. It begins with Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) discovering she has walked into the wrong bathroom at the restaurant she’s dining at, after nearly entering a stall occupied by a man, Jude (Adam Driver). As she frantically tries to leave the door gets jammed, locking them both in the claustrophobic bathroom together. To make matters worse, Jude has the stomach flu, making the smell nearly unbearable for them both. A call to the restaurant is their only way out of this hilariously awkward single take scene. In the face of a painfully awkward moment, the two seem oddly attracted to each other. While this opening scene has a charming vibe to it, Hungry Hearts quickly shifts into a romance but ultimately settles for something much darker, skirting the line between intense thriller and straight-up horror.
The film jumps ahead to show that they’re now a couple and, after a positive pregnancy test, they eventually decide to get married. Everything is peachy until the baby arrives. Which is when the tone shifts and laughs get replaced with shouting disagreements on how to properly raise their child. Mina doesn’t trust doctors and insists on keeping their newborn as “pure” as possible, meaning vegan diet only and no unnatural medicines like antibiotics. Jude realizes his son isn’t growing like he should so he sneaks his child to a doctor who tells him the baby suffers from malnourishment. This is when the film should get real interesting, but it turns into an exasperating watch instead.
Hungry Hearts starts and ends with a bang, but the lack of substance in between doesn’t match up to these hefty bookends. Both Rohrwacher and Driver recently received acting awards at the Venice Film Festival for their outstanding performances, but they aren’t enough to save the film from feeling like a missed opportunity.