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My Feral Heart is an innocuous low-stakes film that shines a light on a fairly underrepresented cross-section of the community and film audience; those that are affected by their mental health and disabilities.
Eschewing the regular conventions that cinema takes around the mentally handicapped, conventions which tend to be on the insensitive and offensive side anyway, My Feral Heart brings a poignant realism to the story of Luke, a middle aged man who’s sent to live in an assisted living home after the death of his mother. There he befriends a tight knit community of people who begin as simple carers yet evolve into an organic family that stick together and love other. The notion of friendship and unity in this film is held so firmly on its sleeve that one worries that the film dives into total saccharine territory, but fortunately it injects just enough humour and peril that we’re kept engaged and thoroughly invested right to its conclusion.
While the formal filming elements of the film tend to be quietly serviceable but nothing to write home about, the film’s true heart lies in the genuine performances from the main three leads. The standout of which is Shana Swash as caregiver Eve, Luke’s first friend at the care home. Her performance feels genuine and filled with life, playing the character with a warmth and pure realism that makes me look forward to more of her work. On the exact same level is our leading man Steve Brandon, who gives a phenomenal central turn as Luke, a character with Downs Syndrome. Much like Swash, Brandon brings life to this character in a way that feels like we’re watching a documentary, with small quirks and ticks bringing the character outside of the inevitable expectations of the audience and into a fully fledged and realised character. Will Rastall completes the trio as troubled good guy Pete, Luke’s eventual best friend who’s the first treat as more than just a patient.
My Feral Heart has some problems (including a questionable subplot that doesn’t quite work), but it’s a remarkable achievement for first time feature filmmaker Jane Gull, whose understanding of the subject matter makes this a worthwhile watch for anyone with an interest in it.
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