Stranger's Heart (A)
R1 - America - Genius Products
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum (23rd February 2008).
The Film

As the blandest possible music sets the melancholy mood, a stiff voice-over, reads as if telling a bedtime story, introduces the characters in this film. A rather wholesome couple live happily in an idyllic lighthouse with their young daughter Callie, dancing and singing together, until mom is struck down by a wayward car. The singing and dancing stop. Dad freaks out and bails. The traumatized little girl grows up into Samantha Mathis. Even as an adult, she still lives in the bedroom of the lighthouse (now with her aunt and uncle), and is perpetually ill. Callie seems to never have overcome her childhood trauma, and this has lead to heart troubles as an adult.

When things finally get too bad to bear, Callie checks into a hospital full of extremely cheerful heart patients who are all at death's door. The grouchy and sad Callie does not share the mirth and endless optimism of her fellow patients. She is an outsider, refusing their kindness, and keeping her distance as the rest of them bond with each other. One of her fellow patients, an obnoxious blowhard named Jasper (Peter Dobson) refuses to stop hitting on her.

Callie's number eventually comes up, and she is able to get her heart transplant. Jasper gets his too. Then Callie begins to stalk the daughter of the person whose heart she has beating in her chest. Turns out that the previous owner of this lonely heart died with her husband in another car accident, leaving the kid an orphan - wow, just like Callie! Of course Jasper got the husband's heart. Jasper mellows out, and it isn't long before he and Callie realize that their hearts were meant to be together. In between games of scrabble, Jasper joins Callie in stalking the little girl.
Is this movie about heart trouble or diabetes? I ask because this movie is so syrupy that one might need a shot of insulin after sitting through it.

"A Stranger's Heart" is the very definition of kitsch: "art that is non-challenging, controlled and formulated by the needs of the market, and given to a passive population" (per philosopher Theodor Adorno). The music sounds like it came from a pre-recorded production library, the performances are broad and obvious, the story seems to have been pulled directly out of the stock television movie-of-the-week file cabinet, and the camerawork is generic. Mathis does her noble best carrying this film and is almost watch able, but the script, the other actors, and the direction don't give her much to work with.

I suppose that one can't be too seriously harsh on a movie like this, after all its heart is in the right place (cough), and it is doing its very best to tell the heart-warming (cough) tale of someone who gets a second chance at life. The message is life-affirming, and there is nothing bad about that on any level, but none of this excuses "A Stranger's Heart" from failing to challenge the audience in any way, or from failing to live up to some minimal standards of creativity or artfulness.


"A Stranger's Heart" is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for widescreen televisions. Running time is 1:25:10, divided into eight chapters. The color palette looks as though it was filmed with an emphasis on bright colors, but the picture is a bit washed out looking. The print is clean. The brief running time, the complete lack of bonus features, and even the lack of a 5.1 audio track mean that there is plenty of room on this disc, so if nothing else, compression artifacts are kept to a minimum.


The only audio option is English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, with no subtitles. Dialogue is clear enough, but the perpetual musical score might be better if it were lower in the mix, if only to spare us from having to hear it.


There are absolutely no extras on this disc.


The Film: C+ Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: F Overall: C+


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