Heartstone is a film about young adults trying to find themselves in an uncertain, inhospitable world. While some of the preteen exploits of these characters may have had me writhing in my seat from discomfort and embarrassment, the film packs an emotional punch, especially since it ventures further with its ending than most fare of its type.
The film focuses on two young men-to-be, Thor and Christian, and their day-to-day lives. Their village in Iceland lacks much to do other than fish, torture animals, and demolish objects. It is when these boys are entranced by two similarly-aged girls that things become – as they typically do – more complicated.
I liked how Thor and Christian, like all teenagers, are on an emotional pendulum. One minute they’ll be endearing to each other, and the next they’ll be doing something immature or reneging on that term of endearment. This applies to their relationship with the girls – they can’t speak sincerely, rather can only engage in muted, affectionate actions mired in a swamp of mixed signals and fleeting glances.
Vulnerability is dangerous in this Icelandic village, the parents here are not the ones that you can depend on. Although we don’t have incestuous mothers here (as in the similarly themed Home), we have a mother who is otherwise sexually and companionably unfulfilled and who may have her priorities set on finding the right man to meet her needs. We also have a drunken and abusive father, and when one of the boys finds himself depending on that abusive man, you know the world has gone to hell in a handbasket.
Without spoiling the ending, it is important to know that this subgenre has typically ended with that gunshot. However, it’s the conversations and actions taken afterwards that allow this film to finally – finally! – move on past the issue revolving around that gunshot to some sort of inner peace and reconciliation.
This review originally appeared as part of our TIFF 2016 coverage.