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Film review: Lawless Heart

Published: Friday, June 6 2003 8:34 a.m. MDT

Thanks to Akira Kurosawa's 1951 classic "Rashomon," the multiple-viewpoints plot device has been done to death. So many times, in fact, that we're almost inclined to disregard anything that even attempts to do it again.

So "Lawless Heart" — the latest version of that scene-repetition routine — has a lot going against it at the outset. The film is also so low-key that at times you almost want to check its pulse.

Yet there is a real honesty to this British comedy-drama that is appealing, and which also makes its soap-opera plot a bit easier to swallow.

There are also a slew of good performances, including the lead role by Tom Hollander, as Nick. His lover has recently died and he's deciding whether to return to London. The determining factor may be whether Nick inherits the man's property.

The person making that decision is Judy (Ellie Haddington), the dead man's sister — but her husband Dan (veteran character actor Billy Nighy) has his own plans for the inheritance. Of course, the middle-aged Dan also has fantasies about Corrinne (Clementine Celarie), a local florist who seems to return his interest.

And then there's Tim (Douglas Henshall), a long-estranged cousin who's recently returned to town for the funeral, and who could certainly use the money.

Co-directors/co-screenwriters Tom Hunsinger and Neil Hunter have created quite a few memorable characters here, not the least of whom is Charlie (Sukie Smith), a woman who finds herself falling for the confused (in more ways than one) Nick.

The performances give the film a boost. For example, the bored-but-looking Dan is one of the film's least appealing characters, yet Nighy makes the audience wonder what will happen to him. And Smith's kooky but sweet Charlie, and Josephine Butler as Leah (a woman who threatens to come between Tim and a longtime friend) are also quite good.

"Lawless Heart" is rated R for occasional use of strong sex-related profanity, simulated sex and sexual acts, flashes of male and full female nudity, brief violence (a scuffle) and some crude sexual talk (slang and innuendo). Running time: 99 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com