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The Lawless Heart (2001) (1 Viewer)

Brent Hutto

Supporting Actor
Aug 30, 2001
My wife and I have a soft spot for the sort of movie that has interesting characters and excellent acting performances even in the absence of tons of plot and spectacle. In recent months we've enjoyed Last Orders, Under the Sand, Laurel Canyon, Igby Goes Down (to name a few off the top of my head) none of which would make it onto anyone's "Top 10" greatest movies list as well as "Lost in Translation" which was truly outstanding.

One movie from a couple of years ago that fits this bill is The Lawless Heart. The sole gimmick of sorts in this movie is a somewhat Rashoman-like set of three overlapping versions of events each presented from the point of view of a different character. However, the multiple (actually three) tellings of the story do not adhere to strictly subjective point individual points of view. There's a lot of flexibility to the presentation of each version of the story.

This works because the purpose of the multiple points of view is not to impress the audience with clever puzzlework but to isolate each character's experience so that the viewer can concentrate on making a fresh emotional connection with each of the three very different individuals. Actually, two of the main characters seem quite similar at first in that they are quiet and closed-off but we discover that one of them is that way by his very nature while the other is temporarily placed in such a state purely by experiencing a traumatic life event.

What I'm trying to say is that the movie is not attempting to be a meditation on the idea that reality is some sort of construct that can never be known but only experienced subjectively. That is a certainly a theme that could be explored with this sort of structure but The Lawless Heart has a much simpler goal. The movie wants us to get to know a handful of people in a small community. The fact that we experience the same few days' events three times simply provides us an extraordinary amount of context for each character to function within.

Cunningly, the first of the three times through the story introduces us to the person least affected by the whole experience. Because of this authorial choice the lack of context (and our confusion as to the setting and the relationship between characters) does not stand in the way of finding out everything we need about that character. When we get to the more interesting characters, we are seeing the events for the second and third times and therefore more clearly.

In the end, the most impressive thing about this movie is how even minor characters can seem so annoying and almost typecast when we first see them but by the end of the 100 minutes we empathize and even find ourselves liking them. It's easy to imagine a story with this kind of structure feeling repetitive and making the movie seem longer than its rather modest length. It's quite an achievement that the opposite is true. I could have gladly spent another hour or two following additional characters who served supporting roles in the three main narratives.


Senior HTF Member
Dec 11, 2000
Real Name
Steve Gonzales
Brent: good review. I saw this some time ago and liked it quite a bit. :emoji_thumbsup:

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