Desires of the Heart review

★★★★★

Directed by: #JamesKicklighter

Written by: #SolilaParida, #JohnHowbrook, #MarkEzraStokes, #JamesKicklighter, #Prasanna #KPati

Starring: #ValLauren, #AliciaMinshew

Film Review by: #DarrenTilby



Desires of the Heart blends tradition and Indian #mysticism with the contemporary as it explores true love, in this utterly gorgeous, supernaturally inflected mystery-romance from writer/director James Kicklighter.


For Dr Kris Sharma, life in Savannah, Georgia, couldn’t be further from that of the life he left in India. Swapping out the old customs expected of him by his family and religion, for the freedom afforded by western society. And, as a successful psychiatrist who’s about to open his own practice in Seattle, it simply couldn’t be better. But then a spanner is thrown into the works of Kris’ life, and he’s taken out of his comfort zone when he meets Madeline, a beautiful young artist – who’s fascinated by Indian culture – and begins to fall in love. A problem made infinitely worse when he receives a phone call from his family in India beckoning him back home for his arranged marriage.


Both Val Lauren and Alicia Minshew give absolutely stellar performances in the lead roles of Kris and Madeline, respectively. I particularly loved how concisely, yet subtly, the film accented the contrasting qualities of the grounded, Kris and more spiritual, Madeline: this isn’t a match-up which should work, these are both divergent personalities. But – through the excellent script and character writing, and incredibly strong chemistry between both Lauren and Minshew – the film does superb work at getting us to believe in these characters and the strange allure they clearly have for one another.


The rest of the cast is also magnificent, I have no complaints about anything here. Although I do feel special mention should also go to Gulshan Grover for his portrayal of Kris’ brother, Pradeep; he may have only had limited screen time, but he stole the show in every scene, and his were some of the best of the film.


The world these characters inhabit is also beautifully imagined and captured. #TimGill’s remarkable camerawork flawlessly and effortlessly flaunts the magnificence of both India and the US’ southern city of Savannah: crystal clear visuals and picturesque framing ensures the grandeur of the old plantation mansion and vibrant colours – which come mostly from #GwenTaylor’s remarkable #costumedesign – and stunning night-time scenes in India are able to be fully appreciated for what they are––a stunning achievement of #cinematography.


Desires of the Heart begins, in many ways, like your typically idealistic romance movie, and it's easy to write it off as such. But you'd be a fool to do so. This faux saccharine surface belies a superbly written and wonderfully understated #supernatural #mystery, which really only takes off at around the halfway point of the film. And it's where the film really comes into its own.


However, once that element of #mystery has fully fledged, there are some plot twists which, while solid narratively (nothing seemed out of place), did cause one of the few gripes I have with this film. My issue is that once the #supernatural aspect of the film takes point, it feels a little overplayed. The effectiveness of these twists was slightly spoiled for me as I was able to predict, quite early on, what was going to happen, largely due to the filmmaker's insistence on drawing our attention to these moments a little too much. And while this wasn't a huge problem in itself (I still loved the ending and how it altered the whole dynamic of the film), it just felt like a slightly missed opportunity for, what could have been, a great mystery...right up until the finale.


There are a few other bits-and-bobs I could mention but, honestly, I'd be nitpicking at this point. The fact of the matter is, I loved this film and none of the issues that I found – predictable plot twists included – came anywhere near to impeding my enjoyment of it. Desires of the Heart is a well-crafted and #evocative piece of film-making with a great cast of talented actors and visuals so beautiful—they belong in a gallery.