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  My Feral Heart Carer's DilemmaBuy this film here.
Year: 2016
Director: Jane Gull
Stars: Steven Brandon, Shana Swash, Will Rastall, Pixie Le Knot, Eileen Pollock, Joe Gooch, Kerryann White, Lewis Nicolas, Jill Keen, Rachael Cox, Jason Wright, Darren Kent, Suzanna Hamilton
Genre: Drama
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Luke (Steven Brandon) is a young man with Down's Syndrome who acts as a carer for his elderly mother Margaret (Eileen Pollock), and has done so since his father left his life; with no other relatives, these two are all they have in the world and are reluctant to seek social assistance because they fear being taken away from one another. Besides, to Luke he really doesn't see any problem, he carries on as he always has done, visiting the shops to buy groceries, keeping his mother clean and fed, and not needing anyone else as far as he can perceive. However, one morning he enters her bedroom to wake her and finds to his shock and dismay that she has passed away...

My Feral Heart was a little success story that gave hope and encouragement to all those labouring away in the independent sector of not only British films, but across the world. It was shown in cinemas as part of an "On Demand" arrangement, where if there were enough requests audiences could go and watch it locally, and by all accounts did very well, making a decent profit on what was a very low budget affair. Not only that, but it was proof that you didn't need oodles of funding to come up with a promising idea that struck a chord with many of those who saw it, not high concept either, simply presenting a side of life not often seen at the pictures with its disabled protagonist.

Of course, labelling Luke as "disabled" doesn't tell you the whole story, as he has been very independent up till now, and when he is forced to move into a home for those with special needs, he makes no secret of his resentment for he feels he is far more capable than any of his fellow residents, many of whom have far worse abilities with communication or self-maintenance than he does. But he has been made out to be a problem thanks to the Down's, and nothing he can say can persuade the authorities to see past that condition, therefore his sense of injustice is palpable - making it worse is when in an escape attempt he collapses and turns out to have a heart condition.

This makes up the home's minds even stronger that Luke should be kept with them, and you are sorry for him in a way that he probably would not like too much either. This alone would be the basis for a compelling, small scale drama, but writer Duncan Paveling and director Jane Gull were more ambitious than that, which was admirable in itself but perhaps taking on a bit too much on their plate. What was impressive was when Luke makes a connection with a local hunt saboteur, Pete (Will Rastall), who is carrying out community service near the home, and begins to open up more, as similarly he does when one of the staff, Eve (Shana Swash), refuses to give up on him and manages to get through to him too. This deepened the drama and the emotions, as this was quite a sad film thanks to its subject matter.

On the other hand, the conclusion it was leading up to was rather more diluted because of the hunt business and the odd choice to have Luke discover a feral girl caught in an animal trap, then keep her in a barn to recuperate, looking after her as he did his mother. This came across as being parachuted in from a different film, as if halfway through Paveling and Gull remembered how much they enjoyed Whistle Down the Wind or Sky West and Crooked and decided to update that sort of offbeat rural tale, and in truth it was too fantastical to truly fit in with what was for the rest it this was painfully realistic. It didn't help that by the final scene nothing was resolved and we were left hanging, but for all those reservations there was something vital and sensitive about My Feral Heart that overcame its uncertainties, joining the small number of films, such as The Eighth Day or Crispin Glover's directorial oeuvre, to star an individual with Down's Syndrome. Music by Barrington Pheloung.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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