My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To

01/06/2022 06:17

Film: My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Year: 2020

Director: Jonathan Cuartas

Writer: Jonathan Cuartas

Starring: Patrick Fugit, Ingrid Sophie Schram and Owen Campbell



This is a movie that I decided to check out as I heard some positive buzz about it. It is that part of the year where I’m cramming in movies that could potentially be part of my top ten, so I decided to check this one for that. I did hear a bit about this movie from a podcast, Whatcha Watching? Over there, what Bo said about this movie over there intrigued me, so I put it on that night. The synopsis is two mysterious siblings find themselves at odds over care for their frail and sickly younger brother.

We start this movie with seeing a truck drive through a desolate area. It is driven by Dwight (Patrick Fugit). He happens upon a homeless man, who he picks up. The homeless man states that he is not going to perform fellatio on Dwight and he also won’t do drugs. Dwight confirms that he will not have to do either. They end up at a dark house. The homeless man thought they were going to a shelter. He is killed by Dwight and taken inside.

There we meet his sister of Jessie (Ingrid Sophie Schram). They cut the homeless man’s throat and collect his blood in a container with a spigot. They also fill a bowl from it to take to their younger brother of Thomas (Owen Campbell). The three of them live a troubled life to keep Thomas safe and fed. It is draining on them though.

Dwight takes items from those that they kill and sells them at a thrift store. Jessie is a server at a local diner. This lifestyle takes a toll on them as Thomas can’t be in the sunlight and sleeps most of the day. Dwight does have an outlet. He visits a local prostitute of Pam (Katie Preston). It is business for her, but Dwight craves conversation and human connection for someone he is not related to. He is even willing to pay for extra time to talk to her.

Things get a bit complicated when Thomas wants to go out. Jessie doesn’t have the energy and neither does Dwight. This causes a major argument between them all. It is hard to blame Thomas as he is isolated with just his siblings. He hears teens outside that are his age and he just wants to be normal. When the urge gets to be too great, he causes some major problems by drawing the attention of Turner (Judah Bateman). We also see that Dwight’s needs are coming before the family and Jessie’s stress is becoming too much.

That will be where I’ll leave my recap here of the movie. There isn’t a lot to the actual story itself, but it is much more about the characters, their wants and needs as well as the deeper concepts to what we are seeing here. Where I want to start then is the situation that we find ourselves. Coming in I heard Bo state that this is a look at caring for a loved one who is sick. He is spot on. The more cliched way of putting this, since it is vampirism on the most basic level, would be caring for an addict. Thomas doesn’t want to be this way, but he is. Dwight and Jessie have given up trying to live normal lives to take care of him. It is coming off as Thomas being ungrateful. I think part of it is that he doesn’t fully understand all they’ve given up protecting him. It is a teen way of looking at things. I thought this was great though. It feels real and makes me reflect on decisions I’ve made in the past. It also makes me think of what I’d give up if I was faced with the decision. I’d give credit to Campbell’s performance here as that feels real.

With that fleshed out, I’ll go then to Dwight. Wanting to get out is greater for him than Jessie. He seeks out this prostitute for companionship. I think he’d be fine if sex wasn’t involved. That was just easier since that is what she does for money. If he had a friend, that would suffice as well. He also wants to get away from this life. He can’t and feels trapped. He is faced with some tough decisions and we see that he isn’t as strong when it comes to the killing aspects. His determination just isn’t there. What happens with his character in the end is both satisfying and depressing in the end. I’d give credit here to Fugit’s performance for sure.

Then to the other major character of Jessie. I feel horrible for her. She has a job as a server where tips are important to her. The lack of sleep or anything to bring her joy is weighing on her. She is also dealing with rude customers, which doesn’t help. She is just drained. I’ve felt the way that she has in the past and I thought that Schram portrayed this so well. She is also the stronger sibling. Jessie must play the bad cop a lot when dealing with Thomas. She is also willing to make the tougher decisions as well. I was really impressed with all three of our leads here.

Before moving away from the story, I want to bring up the idea of the creature that Thomas is. He is a vampire, but I love that the movie doesn’t explore it beyond that. We see him as sick. He has a disorder that doesn’t have a cure. The family isn’t there to do that. They are surviving. Thomas and Dwight both want to live, where Jessie has given up on that. It makes this depressing. By not making this more about what he has, I think it grounds it more with the commentary.

Next, I’ll go to the rest of the cast we have here. This is really about Dwight and Jessie with Thomas as the catalyst. We have characters that influence and push them to where they end up. We have the homeless man in the beginning and then Eduardo (Moises L. Tovar) who gets taken by Dwight later. This makes for an interesting interaction and explores more of the Dwight character. Turner (Judah Bateman) interesting to complicate things. Pam (Katie Preston) is the same as well. I’d say that the acting is good across the board to get our trio to where they need to be.

Finally, I’ll go into the cinematography, effects and the soundtrack. For the former, this movie is shot beautifully, but in an odd way. The movie looks drab, so they are doing well in conveying how depressing things are. That worked for me. We don’t get a lot in the way of effects, but we don’t need to. They went practical with everything. They also hide things which helps. We have people being stabbed. The blood looks good. We even see why the windows are covered and Thomas isn’t allowed to go into the sunlight. Other than that, the soundtrack worked for what they needed. I did like that this movie takes its title from a song which gets played. There is also a game that Thomas plays with Jessie involving old songs and the year they’re written.

So then in conclusion here, I dug this movie. I’m glad that this is another that I didn’t sleep on when doing my year end watches. We have an interesting story and concept that isn’t new. By making it seems normal like they do and, in a way, where people can connect adds an element for me. Our three leads play characters that feel real. The rest of the cast pushes them to where they need to end up. I’d say that this movie is shot in a way that adds to the feel and the soundtrack works for what they needed. We don’t get a lot in the way of effects, but what we get look good for sure. I’d say that this is good movie. This is one I’m interested in revisiting to see where I sit after a second viewing.


My Rating: 8.5 out of 10