Mental health and disability is something not often portrayed on screen as well as it should be. There’s not to say there aren’t fine, welcome examples, but it’s not uncommon to find misinformed or often offensive (Whether they were trying to be or not) portrayals scattered throughout film. This is certainly isn’t the case when it comes to Jane Gully’s My Feral Heart, a beautiful film showing this weekend, and one that you just can’t miss.
Luke (Stephen Brandon), an independent young man with Down’s syndrome, is forced to live in a care home after his elderly mother dies. He struggles to settle there, both frustrated at having his wings clipped by its rules, and unimpressed by his new house mates. His disappointment with his new home soon turns to wonder when Luke discovers a way out and begins to explore the surrounding countryside. From there, he meets Pete (Will Rastall), a troubled youth tending the grounds, and finds a girl (Pixie Le Knot) out in the field, alone, battered, and broken. Luke forms a close bond with his Pete and his carer, and proves his independence in this unforgettable film.
My Feral Heart’s portrayal of Down’s Syndrome isn’t offensive, nor is it patronising or cartoonish; straight from the get go, Luke is a head strong character who carries the film all the way through, enticing the audience with his confidence, perseverance and his determination. Stephen Brandon, in his first acting role, is absolutely phenomenal. It’s an effortless performance that hits all the right notes and is thoroughly engaging all throughout. In fact, just about ever performance is perfect, with Rastall and Shana Swash (Yes, she is Joe Swash’s sister) turning in great supporting roles.
My Feral Heart is a film that succeeds on every level; it’s emotional depth is unbelievable, and so impressive. From it’s opening scenes of Luke caring for his mother, to it’s enigmatic final moments, the film is an absolute whirlwind of all sorts of emotions. There are times when it’s sad, and those moments hit you like an oncoming truck, and then other times it gets a little happier and even if it’s just for a few seconds, you’ll find yourself wrapped up in these good feelings that offer delirious entertainment even if just for a brief period. At no point does the film ever feel contrived or over the top, it does everything right, and Jane Gull has done a marvelous job of directing.
There’s no escaping the involvement you have with each and every character, and large part of that is the breathtaking imagery put to the screen. It’s such a lovingly crafted piece of art. Without spoiling it, it even gets surprisingly tense, to the point of actual fear. But to be honest, it doesn’t matter if what’s happening is happy or sad or tense or scary, you’ll be constantly sucked in by an overwhelming eagerness to follow Luke’s story and see how it unfolds.
If you have the chance to see this weekend, I highly recommend you do so, because My Feral Heart is a beautiful little film that already sits as one of the best films of 2016.
My Feral Heart hits cinemas 4th Nov