The Violent Heart (2021) movie review

Jovan Adepo (“Fences”, “Overlord”) plays Daniel, a 24-year-old who tries to enter the Marines to escape his small town and put his tragic family past behind him. At the age of nine, he saw his older sister being murdered in the woods by a man whose face he had never seen and who went unpunished for 15 long years. Daniel has naturally been dealing with anger management issues his entire life and spent time as a minor for accidentally blinding a classmate in a school fight.

Against all odds, a redemptive romance blooms between Daniel and 18-year-old high school student Cassie (Grace Van Patten). Cassie is a bright, beautiful and witty young woman whose closest friend is her father, Joseph (Lukas Haas), who also happens to be her English teacher. Cassie naturally begins to move away from Joseph and his mother Rose (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) with a view to leaving the nest, and the tension is amplified when she returns to school from her first long afternoon with Daniel ( who fixed his vehicle at the local garage where he works as a mechanic) and surprises his father in what could be a compromising moment with a teacher (they both seem confused as the teacher lets herself be pulled out of Daniel’s classroom) .

It’s impossible to say a bad word about the cast, a dazzling ensemble that includes Mary J. Blige, who shines like Daniel’s mother (in her first movie role since “Mudbound”); Cress Williams as Lee, father of Daniel, an Afghanistan veteran who inspires him to join the military; and Jahi Di’Allo Winston as Daniel’s little brother, Aaron, who worries mum prefers his big brother over him. Every artist of any importance works overtime to fill these characters with emotional nuances.

The problem is that they apparently have to unmask elements that are most often examined in the script – particularly the racial dynamics of the relationship between Daniel and Cassie, and between Daniel’s family and the town, which apparently is extremely. white. There is exactly one reference to the fact that Daniel is a dark-skinned man in his twenties, dating a fair-skinned blond teenager in a small Central American town, the type that black travelers might have driven during the green. Reserve days.

Although we may feel the racial tension as a subtext in a few scenes (especially when mom and dad raise objections and mom starts saying something like, “Besides, he’s …” but doesn’t finish. ), it seems unrealistic that no one in this story would make it appear as text. The central love story is a Romeo and Juliet-type affair involving what appears to be the only black family in town, who was the victim of a violent and unsolved murder 15 years earlier. The writer / director makes a point of contrasting the disheartening odds the hero faces as he tries to be admitted to the Marines despite his juvenile criminal conviction, and the heroine not really listening to the pain of Daniel, even as she proposes herself as confidante and emotional cheerleader. She responds to reports of incidents that shattered her self-image and hurt her soul with counterexamples of bad things that just happened to her. Poor Cassie just doesn’t get it.

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