There's few films in recent memory that I've anticipated seeing more than "Heartland". It has a lot going for it. The director, Richard Pearce, would go on to create four similarly quiet dramas of high caliber - Threshold, Country, The Long Walk Home and A Family Thing. Whereas the high points of all three later films were the great performances, this film is ultimately buried by a complete lack of the very same thing. Why is this? The leads themselves (Torn and Ferrell) aren't bad actors. The script, though uncomplicated, isn't unworkable. Perhaps it has something to do with Pearce's lack of experience at this point. "Heartland" was, after all, his first feature film. Despite any effort to the contrary, a huge majority of the dialogue is delivered poorly, overstated, or overacted.
There are good points. Fred Murphy's cinematography, while not truly spectacular, is extremely lonely and beautiful at points. "Heartland" is at its best when the focus shifts to the scenery, the quiet moments, the simple human interactions - more with their world than with each other. The complete failure of the cast to really feel at home leaves this film feeling cold and anemic. I wanted something heartwrenching and pure like "Days of Heaven" or Pearce's own best film "Country". Instead, I was left with something distant, listless and ultimately, aimless.
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