Wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve can be a dangerous endeavour. Displaying vulnerability, and exposing oneself to heartbreak and disappointment, can often feel scarier than the most gruesome horror film. While it is understandable that some would keep their emotions guarded, most of the individuals in Kim Albright’s debut feature With Love and a Major Organ seem content to let technology feed them a curated view of happiness.
Letting the popular LifeZapp app control everything from what they eat to recommending who they should interact with, everyday life has become a series of Instagram posts. People present a version of themselves that is void of real emotion.
While some people use technology to figuratively lock their hearts in a protective safe, not everyone has succumbed to the machine. Anabel (Anna Maguire) is determined to not let her cellphone govern her life. An insurance representative by day, and artist by night, her life may be messy, she literally arrives at work with paint smudges on her face, but at least it is real.
Looking to find meaningful connections in a maze of full of fake people, she happens to meet George (Transplant’s Hamza Haq) while sitting on a park bench. Making a point to routinely run into George, an awkward man with a deadpan delivery, Anabel quickly falls head over heels for a man who she hardly knows. Professing her love via a tape she records for him one-night, she is devastated when he does not reciprocate. Couple this with the tragic personal news she receives mere days later, and Anabel begins to question if the universe is trying to tell her something.
While some would choose to mend their emotional wounds with a tub of ice cream and a romantic comedy, Anabel makes the drastic decision to literally pull out her heart, which is something that people can do in this society, and mail it to George. After all, she has no use for it…especially when an app can fill the void.
As Anabel submits to the conformity of society, becoming colder and more direct by the minute, George begins to truly see life through another person’s eyes…er…organ. Removing his own heart and replacing it with Anabel’s, he starts to see that there is more to life than the mundane existence he endures living with his overbearing mother Mona (Veena Sood).
Directing Julia Lederer’s adaptation of her own critically acclaimed play of the same name, Albright crafts the type of wildly original debut that immediately makes her a director who should be on everyone’s radar. With Love and a Major Organ will have you laughing one moment and contemplating the nature of human connections the next. By setting the film in a world that feels close to our own, but strange enough to keep one constantly off balance, Albright brings interesting layers to her characters and the situation in which they find themselves.
Rather than simply relying on its quirky premise for some cheap laughs, the sharp script embraces the weirdness in a way that accentuates the sense of isolation and heartache at the film’s core. Anabel and George are two individuals who find themselves in need of connection but on different timelines. As is often the case in relationships, the seemingly perfect mates tend to arrive at the wrong time.
While an engaging work, though, the film struggles to bring its strands together evenly in the latter sections. This is most noticeable when George temporarily becomes the central focus as the audience watches him experience life as his mother desperately tries to bring him back in the fold. In these moments With Love and a Major Organ awkwardly pivots to the complicated bonds that parents have with their children.
The problem with this particular change in direction to parental/child dynamics is that one does not learn enough about Mona, or Anabel’s absentee mother, to sell the compassionate message at the end of the film. While one understands what Lederer’s script is ultimately going for, Mona is simply too one-dimensional for a large portion of the film to adequately pull on the heartstrings the way that her final speech aims to do.
Fortunately, there is plenty in Anabel and George’s individual journeys to keep one invested in the film even during some of the stranger, and uneven, moments. Gleefully weird at times, and anchored by strong performances by Maguire and Haq, With Love and a Major Organ dances to its own unique beat. The film rides a wave of emotion from humour to sadness in a way that touches one’s own heart. Never falling into the tropes of conventional romantic dramas, the film captures the importance of intimate bonds that, for better or worse, we deeply feel. The type of human connections that no app could ever replicate.