'Heart' unable to find happiness
|||'The Heart of Me'
R, for some sexuality
The film is a soapy melodrama set from about 1936 to 1946 and done with style Jerry Springer crossed with "Masterpiece Theater." Helena Bonham Carter stars as Dinah, a raffish bohemian who is the despair of her sister, Madeleine (Olivia Williams), and her mother (Eleanor Bron).
Madeleine at last contrives to get Dinah engaged to a presentable man, but when the intended nuptials are announced at a family dinner, we notice that Madeleine's husband, Rickie, winces. We notice, and so does Dinah, who sends him a barely perceptible shrug. Later that night Rickie (Paul Bettany) opens her bedroom door and announces, "You are not going through with this. Break it off."
She agrees. His statement clarifies what has been vibrating in the air between them, a romantic love of the abandoned, hopeless variety that is most irresistible when surrounded by the codes of a society that places great value on appearances. The family maintains "the smartest house in London," Rickie has one of those jobs in the city that provides a large income for tasks hard to define, and while there is no love between him and his wife, it is simply not done to cheat with your sister-in-law.
The movie is based on a 1953 novel by Rosamond Lehmann, and while it is hard to say it was inspired by her affair with C. Day Lewis, they had an affair, and she wrote a novel about an affair and there you are. No doubt the facts are different, but the feelings are similar.
Carter does suggest a woman with something of Lehmann's flair for romantic drama; her Dinah is the kind of person it is easy to criticize until you look into her heart, and see with what fierce integrity she opposes the strictures of society. It is really Dinah, and not Rickie, who is taking the big chances, because no matter what sins Rickie commits he will always be required to remain on display as Madeleine's husband, while the punishment for Dinah must be exile.
Madeleine is not a bad person either, really; she is the aggrieved party, after all. But it never occurs to her to cut loose from Ricky; this man who has betrayed her remains necessary for her to keep up appearances, and she and her mother tell appalling lies to both Dinah and Rickie in trying to force the relationship to an end. The great sadness in the movie is the waste of love, which is a rare commodity.
There are major developments in the story which I will not reveal, but, oh! how sad these people are by the end. And how pathetic.