Film Review: Heartstruck
Written and directed by Ian Thomas Kent, Heartstruck is an independent romance film about four interconnected people who go out on the town looking for love. By the end of the night they realize what they were looking for may not have been what they really wanted.
The film opens with random singles who present their profiles on Tinder. Their amusing lines ("Hey girls, swipe right if you need some Jesus in ya"; "I'm super into white people") hint about the genre (romantic comedy) and topic.
We then met the characters in a bar. Firstly introduced: Eric & Cameron - two friends who hold opposing views about relationships and honesty. After a short presentation of the men's perceptions, we meet Jen & Jaqueline, who are sitting a few feet away.
Jeremiah O'Mahony as Eric
* Spoiler alert * When the two parties notice each other, we get a chance to know what they're thinking before they meet each other ("This one?!"). But then, surprisingly, Eric meets another woman, Mary, while at the same time Jen meets another man, Greg.
This nice twist explains the close up shots at the beginning, and makes the viewer wonder if Jen and Eric, the characters we expected to engage in a love story, would even meet later in the movie. At this point, we can guess they will, but more importantly, the viewer wants that to happen. We root for them!
Then, surprisingly (#2), the two characters who do meet eventually, are those who pushed their friends to meet - Cameron and Jaqueline. Cameron, who just adviced his friend not to be honest, is revealed as a too-honest person when Jaqueline asks "What are you doing here?" ("Honestly? I'm just looking to get laid"). Her response is even better (we can't reveal too much!).
Katrien Van Riel as Jen
The structure and the way the characters are presented, in addition to the good-vibe music and funny inserts create a unique storytelling approach that keeps the viewer intrigued and amused throughout. Each of the characters is well written and performed, from Cameron's narcissism ("I-AM-AWESOME") to Eric's exaggerated excitement ("Why don't we go to my place" -"Yeah!" (baby's voice) "mmm, Yeah!" (deep voice).
The performances are excellent. Every actor paints the story with a different color, which is not at all obvious in a short film. Jeremiah O'Mahony (who won Best Actor in an Indie Film at LAFA) as Eric and Katrien Van Riel as Jen are simply adorable. The viewer relates to their characters pretty quickly. Andrei Dolezal as Cameron and Jill Turner as Jaqueline play the "free spirit" characters, who only care about tonight (and they do that pretty well!). Hannah Heckman-McKenna as Mary is wonderful, and the secret she keeps from Eric leads to a great twist, and Traver Kohelr as Greg completes the cast with his interesting (yet somehow sadistic) character.
Andrei Dolezal as Cameron and Jill Turner as Jaqueline
Ian Thomas Kent cleverly uses multiple storylines that connect to a fantastic closure. At the end of the film comes the meeting we have been waiting for from the moment we got to know the characters - the meeting between Jen and Eric. Contrary to what we expected in that scene at the bar, the two meet by chance, on the train, after they both come out of their brief relationships physically and emotionally hurt. This beautiful closure doesn't need any dialogue. The two just sit next to each other, and Jen who sees Eric's nose bleeding, passes him a tissue paper.
To conclude, Heartstruck is an amusing romantic comedy, but its purpose is not only making the audience laugh. Just like the film's precise dialogue and the relatively complex storyline (considering it's a short film), and with limited resources, Heartstruck offers the viewer much more than just "good time". It brings a message of fate, and shows how people many times make wrong decisions, on their way to finding their soul mate..
In July 2020, Heartstruck won 3 awards at LAFA, including Best Romantic Comedy (Ian Thomas Kent), Best Actor in an Indie Film (Jeremiah O'MaHony) and an Honorable Mention: Editing (Jude Thomas).
Director Biography - Ian Thomas Kent
Ian Thomas Kent is an award-winning filmmaker and Charleston, SC native. He received his Bachelor’s in Arts at Sarah Lawrence College in New York and is currently attending the MFA Film & TV Production program at USC's School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles. He strives to generate authentic dramas that portray the ever evolving human condition with a focus on interpersonal relationships.