28th Jun2021

‘My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To’ VOD Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: Patrick Fugit, Ingrid Sophie Schram, Owen Campbell, Moises L. Tovar, Judah Bateman, Katie Preston | Written and Directed by Jonathan Cuartas

It will be of no surprise to many that what drew me to this movie is the rather long but very awesome title. I guess many people would see it as a bit self indulgent but for me it conjures up so many thoughts and ideas to what kind of movie it might be and it simply made me want to watch the film. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To has much more going for it than just a great title though.

It’s a story that I don’t want to go into too much for fear of spoilers but it’s a pretty simple idea in which two siblings are looking after their younger, frail and ill brother. But the things they have to do to help him cause arguments and disagreements between them all.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a slow-burn but perfectly paced horror movie that would have fitted nicely with that mumblecore horror films (or mumblegore as they were sometimes known) of the early 2010s. It has a lot of similarities with films like The House of the Devil and The Battery, a sub genre of horror that had almost disappeared. The focus being on the characters and the relationship between them.

We, very early on, get a clear picture who each sibling is and how they are with each other. I found each one relatable in someway but in particular the older brother Dwight and perhaps this is why the performance that I thought stood out was from Patrick Fugit in this role. I believed in everything he did and the reasons he did them. Maybe most importantly I believed he was a good person that was going through something really tough. And although the three main actors are all great and all in very different ways, Fugit is exceptional. It’s almost a low-key performance as the dialogue is quiet and understated but it all has meaning. Every conversation, every word and every action is important.

There’s a karaoke machine that enters the story, seemingly at first for a bit of light relief, to see these three siblings get along and get some enjoyment from there lives. But the machine becomes something more, something important and there’s a really strong scene with Dwight after a particularly violent moment that you wouldn’t expect to involve karaoke singing in such a brilliant way. And speaking of violence, My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To has plenty of it. Like much of the film, it is kind of low key, far from action-orientated or even horrorcentric. But it’s such a huge part of the story and has a huge impact every time it occurs. It feels real and therefore more brutal.

Writer and director Jonathan Cuartas should take plenty of credit in the tone and dialogue in the movie, a style that now seems new and fresh. Although he might have taken some influence from recent horror movies such as Hereditary and Get Out, this feels like a different beast altogether. This is an extremely impressive debut feature .

With top performances from Patrick Fugit, Ingrid Sophie Schram and Owen Campbell, My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a gritty and fresh new take on one of horror most well trodden sub genres. There’s a surprisingly uplifting end to it all aswell (although some might disagree – it is open to interpretation). This is highly recommended viewing.

**** 4/5

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is out now on digital from Lightbulb Film Distribution.


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