- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2003

No one does irony like the Brits, and there’s plenty of it in “Lawless Heart.” But the best thing about this movie is its soft side. Like the HBO series “Six Feet Under,” writer-directors Tom Hunsinger and Neil Hunter use a funeral as the setup for a lot of wry jokes, but the film gradually reveals what had been making it tick all along: breezy, unfussy reflections on the complicated nature of love and the heart’s unpredictable longings.

“Lawless,” set in a seaside English village, is an intersecting web of stories about three men, all connected somehow to Stuart, a just-deceased restaurateur.

As it dispatches with one act, it returns to the funeral and unspools the same events, told from different perspectives. Pay close attention to how Mr. Hunsinger and Mr. Hunter use little visual clues — a scarf, a coconut, a black eye — to link all three narratives together.

This tricky, if not entirely original, method of storytelling alone makes “Lawless Heart” worthwhile. The real payoff, though, is watching the inner lives of each male lead unfold in surprising ways, all precipitated by chance meetings with ordinary strangers.

There’s Dan (Bill Nighy, apparently Britain’s answer to comedian Larry David), who meets a dashing French florist (Clementine Celarie) at Stuart’s funeral, throwing his happy marriage to Stuart’s sister, a rich character herself, into doubt.

Nick (Tom Hollander), Stuart’s lover, unexpectedly grows fond of a supermarket checkout girl, making him question whether he’s betraying his deceased partner, not to mention himself.

Finally, there’s Tim (Douglas Henshall), a fun-loving wastrel who returns home after eight years abroad and entangles himself with a pair of former lovers, his best childhood friend and a woman he meets at a local clothing store.

Mr. Hunsinger and Mr. Hunter introduce and resolve key plot points and, through seemingly meandering but actually meaningful dialogue, reveal more about their characters, all cleverly fleshed out by each player, than you would think possible within a tight, 86-minute running time.

With acting this good, who needs marquee names? And with writing this witty and this economical, who needs the overwrought, sentimental love stories being produced on this side of the pond?

***

TITLE: “Lawless Heart,” playing exclusively at Visions Cinema

RATING: R (strong sexuality; profanity; fleeting nudity)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Tom Hunsinger and Neil Hunter. Produced by Martin Pope. Cinematography by Sean Bobbitt. Original music by Adrian Johnston.

RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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