Heartstone review: Sensitive, slightly over-extended debut

Despite a surfeit of gay coming-of-age cliches, this Icelandic drama is surging with potential

Baldur Einarsson as Thor and Blær Hinriksson as Kristján in ‘Heartstone’

Film Title: Heartstone

Director: Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson

Starring: Baldur Einarsson, Blær Hinriksson, Diljá Valsdóttir, Katla Njalddottir, Søren Malling, Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 129 min

Fri, Feb 16, 2018, 05:00


There is no cliche quite so worn in gay cinema as that soothing shot of the young man sunbathing by a stretch of water (pool, lido, lake, whatever you like). Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s sensitive, slightly over-extended debut begins thus and goes on to strike further familiar notes from the coming-of-age playbook. There’s some fumbled sex. There’s a bit of carefree dancing. There’s a single parent coping indifferently with her new solitude.

Still, Guðmundsson just about makes the old songs new again. He is assisted by unforgiving camerawork from Sturla Brandth Grøvlen – who shot the excellent Rams – that invites the harsh Icelandic coastline to sound bass notes beneath the developing drama. The kids are great. The adults are just as good.

We begin with a striking scene that finds Thor (Baldur Einarsson) and Kristján (Blær Hinriksson), two independently minded Icelandic teens, spotting a shoal of fish, hauling the animals on land and battering them to death. The catch will, Thor naively suggests, make them rich. There’s a lot in the scene. We understand that there’s not much to do in this isolated nowhere. We guess that the lads have energy to burn.

Jolly good wheeze

Thor is averagely unhappy, living with his recently single mother (Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir) and two noisy, sometimes-unkind sisters. This is the sort of place where it’s regarded as a jolly good wheeze to dump a young fellow from his home before he’s had a chance to dress. Ha ha! Hang on? Isn’t this one of the coldest countries on earth?

Baldur Einarsson as Thor and Blær Hinriksson as Kristján in ‘Heartstone’
Baldur Einarsson as Thor and Blær Hinriksson as Kristján in ‘Heartstone’

It gradually emerges that the relationship between the two boys is not entirely platonic. Brief flirtations point towards more permanent sexual realignments.

If Guðmundsson had worked through those interactions a little more quickly Heartstone might have registered as a real contender. Sadly, it makes every point three times and usually at too great a length.

Surging with potential for all that.