A rich and emotionally charged drama about the seductive and destructive nature of passion. Socialite Madeleine invites her bohemian sister Dinah to stay with her and her husband, Rickie. Rickie and his sister-in-law fin... more »d themselves unable to control their desire for one another. What starts as a momentary affair spirals into decades of deception, ecstasy, and passion.« less
The Heart of Me is a 2003 British period drama film directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan.
1930's London, before and after World War II. Two sisters - Madeleine and Dinah - One marries Rickie, the other falls in love with him. He begins an affair which is to have repercussions throughout their lives. Starring Helena Bonham Carter, Paul Bettany and Olivia Williams. The film is an adaptation of Rosamond Lehmann's novel The Echoing Grove.
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A Terribly (and Wonderfully) British Drama
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 02/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Watching the magic of THE HEART OF ME unfold on the screen, one would automatically think this was the product of the Merchant Ivory team, finding yet another treasure by Forster or James to illuminate. But no, this is the work of Director Thadeus O'Sullivan (and I don't know who wrote the screeplay). For those who enjoy the very British view of life and relationships in the era of World War II then this film will certainly satisfy.The story is rather simple: Two sisters, one man. Madeleine (Olivia Williams) is very correct and is quite properly married to a man (Rickie - Paul Betany) more for appearance than for (gasp) passion. Her sister Dinah (Helena Bonham Carter) comes to visit their proper home and is immediately attracted physically to Rickie. Dinah and Rickie begin an affair that results in a pregnancy. Madeleine discovers the affair but decides to remain married to Rickie because divorce is unseemly.
Rickie copes with severe ulcer disease and in the course of events the girls' mother (Eleanor Brun) has her daughter Dinah leave the scene of the sham marriage. Dinah gives birth to a stillborn girl and attempts to stay away from Rickie and her family by moving to Southern France with her girlfriend chum Bridie (Alison Reed). Tragedies upon tragedies occur as only they can in the British dramas - misinformation abounds, love persists, trysts recur - and the conclusion of the film shows at least a glimpse of resolution of this tangled family dilemma.The photography is splendid: London is foggy, the coasts are wispy and cold, the interiors are moody. The acting is absolutely first rate from everyone, but the two sisters radiate WW II England in the best of fashion. Helena Bonham Carter as rarely looked more beautiful or acted so convincingly and the same is true for Olivia Williams. And despite the conflicted cad Paul Betany is asked to portray he gives a subtle performance that suggests we will see much more of him. The bonus selections on the DVD are additive. The only complaint: ambient noise and the music score often cover the voices so the viewer must concentrate so as not to miss a delicious moment. Highly recommended."
Jennifer L. Hughes | Santee, CA USA | 02/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie strikes a deep emotional chord... two sisters, both very different, one an artist who follows her heart, which at times seems a bit impetuous, the other a reserved and proper wife and mother seeking seemingly unselfishly to maintain her status quo. The movie takes you deftly into their positions in life, and though you may have a favorite of the two by the end, it is surely not for lack of understanding the entirety of each character. Love and betrayal, candor and lies. Each loving the same man, for different reasons and purposes. It is an amazing journey that will take you through the spectrum of each emotion - longing, hope, despair, love, angst, pride, freedom, ultimate loss and again, hope. I highly recommend this movie. If you enjoy the dynamics of this movie, you may also enjoy Possession, in which Jennifer Ehle and Jeremy Northam shine."
"I'm so ready to be happy"
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 03/22/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Gorgeously directed, and with some wonderful ensemble performances by Helena Bonham Carter, Olivia Williams and Paul Bettany, The Heart of Me shows the terrible price one must pay for choosing between propriety and passion. The traditional romantic triangle is played out amongst the background of the well-bred English upper crust, where emotions are kept in check, and where decorum and respectability must be adhered to at all costs. For a film that is supposed to be about sexual passion, there is a noticeable lack of it, and what passion there is, is presented in a willowy, breezy "Marie Claire" kind of way. But this minor quibble shouldn't negate the power and the overall emotional effectiveness of the story - it's still very well done.
Viewers will probably realize that from the outset, none of the characters are ever going to achieve lasting happiness. Full of betrayal, tears, and deceit, and the notion that one must endlessly suffer for love, The Heart of Me - adapted from Rosamond Lehmann's 1953 novel The Echoing Grove - follows two sisters the impulsive Dinah (Helena Bonham Carter), the beautiful, icy Madeleine (Olivia Williams), and their handsome paramour, Rickie (Paul Bettany) though the glitz and glamour of London in the thirties to the end of the War. Dinah and Madeleine are two very different siblings: Dinah is a successful mother and is seemingly happily wed to Rickie who works as some kind of stock broker in the city. She's straight-laced and correct, always intent in maintaining her somewhat flimsy veneer of social respectability.
Currently Madeleine is engaged in finding Dinah a respectable husband. But Dinah is somewhat the rebel and celebrates in being anti-establishment; she loves passion and the arts and gets off on reading William Blake. Dinah rolls her eyes at Madeleine's efforts, and further incenses her sister and her Mother (Eleanor Bron) by taking art courses and walking off in rainstorms without caring whether she gets wet. She doesn't really want to marry anyone and she doesn't really care when Rickie tells her to break off the engagement to the dull, but socially impeccable Charles (Andrew Havill). Of course, Rickie is absolutely smitten with Dinah; they just can't keep their hands off each other, meeting for after work trysts and sessions of furtive love making - once in a park on New Years eve, and then in Dinah's own run-down, bohemian apartment that she shares with Bridie (Alison Reid).
Dinah and Rickie can't keep their secret for long, and Madeleine can't keep up her facade of marital bliss, and much of the movie centers on how they all navigate these potentially disastrous waters of deceit. Rickie is torn between duty, familial obligations, and his heart's desires, while the concerned Madeleine sits at home and frets cluelessly about Dinah's escapades with the mannish Bridie. Dinah hovers between passionate love, and fierce independence - in one scene, she vows that she's had quite enough of Rickie, yet later she confronts him in a crowded restaurant and begs him to take her back.
Structurally the movie is quite interesting: Madeline and Dinah meet at the dust-ridden, neglected family house after the war. Rickie is now dead - killed in the blitz, and both of the sisters must face the angry ghosts of the past. As they talk, they both reminisce - in a series of flashbacks - to those heady days in London when both of them were full of vitriolic passion. The movie is a masterpiece of tight voices, resolute looks, and carefully clipped phrases, with the three actors delivering marvelously shaded performances. The Heart of Me also touches on many universal themes - the battle between uncontrolled yearning and oppressive morality, the cost of sibling rivalry, and penalty of careless non-conformity; these themes are as timeless and as everlasting today as they were during the tumultuous years in which this film is set. Mike Leonard March 05. "
Brilliantly acted drama
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 06/01/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
""The Heart of Me" is pure, unadulterated soap opera redeemed by the kind of high-toned, stiff-upper-lip seriousness of which the British seem uniquely capable. Set primarily in the 1930's, the film tells the story of two sisters caught in a passionate and quasi-incestuous love triangle. Madeline (Olivia Williams), the older of the two, is an uptight woman whose weak-willed husband, Rickie (Paul Bettany), falls in love with her younger and more free-spirited sibling, Dinah (Helena Bonham Carter). These two in-laws, soul mates for life, carry on a torrid love affair until Madeline discovers the truth - and even for a time thereafter. Given the material, "The Heart of Me" could easily have devolved into a cheap, sensationalistic melodrama for the "Masterpiece Theatre" set. Instead, thanks to truly brilliant performances by the three principal actors and an intelligent, thoughtful screenplay, the film becomes a wholly absorbing drama that offers profound insights into the realities of the human heart. The pain each of these people experiences is so palpable in its intensity that it washes away all traces of artificiality and contrivance. The film becomes a fascinating study of what happens when clanging passions are hemmed in by the restrictions and proprieties of a strict, morally repressive upper class society. Rickie and Dinah choose to turn themselves into social pariahs, then must face the consequences of their convention-defying actions. Of most interest is the emotionally complex relationship between the two very different sisters. What makes the film special is the way in which it allows the seemingly cold-hearted Madeline to become as much a sympathetic figure as the two impassioned lovers. Thanks to Williams' impeccable performance (she played Penelope in the TV movie version of "The Odyssey"), Madeline is allowed to live and breathe and have her own say, making her, in many ways, the most intriguing of the three main characters."The Heart of Me," which is beautifully detailed in costumes and settings, transcends the limits of its genre to deliver a heartbreaking tale of love, loss, lament - and hope."
TWO SISTERS...ONE MAN...
Lawyeraau | Balmoral Castle | 08/15/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a very well made movie with a stellar cast and an intelligent script. The plot revolves around two sisters who are total opposites. Madeleine (Olivia Williams) is the glossy, cool, conventional, and undemonstrative sister who is more interested in the outward than in the inward. For Madeleine, appearances are paramount. Dinah (Helena Bonham Carter) is the artistic, bohemian younger sister who is headstrong, passionate, and fiery, in touch with her own feelings but caring little for the feelings of others, if they get in the way of what she wants. She cares little for conventions and is the bane of her sister's existence.
The prim and proper Madeleine is married to Rickie (Paul Brettany), her handsome, wealthy husband, with whom she leads a very proper, upper crust life. Attracted to his sister-in-law, Rickie engages in a forbidden, secret affair with her that turns into a deep and abiding love. Rickie finds in Dinah what is lacking in his wife. These soul mates, however, are destined for tragedy when they choose to defy the conventions of the strictly moral and puritanical society in which they live. The sisters' mother, Mrs. Burkett (Eleanor Bron), interjects herself into the situation in order to preserve the status quo, dividing the illicit lovers through deception.
The film, which begins in 1934 England and covers a twelve years period through 1946, is deftly directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan. Olivia Williams gives an intelligent, picture perfect performance as the coolly reserved Madeleine, whose facade finally cracks when she discovers her sister's and her husband's perfidy and betrayal. She ultimately is able to be in touch with her feelings and find the necessary catharsis in the end to make right what went wrong.
Helena Bonham Carter is, as always, a picture of perfection, making the reprehensible Dinah ultimately likable when self-awareness of what she has wrought dawns upon her. Paul Brettany shows that he has what it takes to be a leading man, as his reprisal of the romantically beleaguered Rickie is a sensitive portrait of a man caught between two worlds, wanting to make all those around him happy but, in the end, failing. Eleanor Bron is wonderful as the well-meaning matriarch who understands both her daughters all too well.
This film is a beautiful period piece, with gorgeous costumes, wonderful sets, and excellent performances. It is a film well worth watching by those who are fans of this genre.