Tribeca Review: My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Dwight and Jessie

It’s natural for siblings to squabble and bicker. The power dynamic between brothers and sisters is often established in early life and usually remains until they’re old and grey. Whilst families routinely disagree or hold long-standing grudges, they usually come together when something major happens. Like the death of a parent or loved one. Some families will do anything for each other, as is the case in My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To.

Dwight (Patrick Fugit) trawls the streets at night looking for those waifs and strays who won’t be missed. He has no taste for this nocturnal activity but knows he has no option because someone needs to provide a fresh supply of blood in order to keep his brother (Owen Campbell) alive. Undertaking this lonely endeavour gradually saps the life out of him, but Thomas and their sister Jessie (Ingrid Sophie Schram) are the only family he has left.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is an unorthodox and intelligent take on the power and closeness of familial bonds. In his feature debut Jonathan Cuartas uses his background in editing to create a sparse and unfussy fable. This approach allows the characters space to exist without cluttering their relationships with unnecessary static. It’s an unusual and almost meditative tale but My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is absorbing throughout.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To screens at Tribeca on 12 June and released in US theatres and VOD by Dark Sky Films on 25 June.

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