Heartstone (Hjartasteinn). Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson. Iceland/Denmark.
Two of the better films I caught at this year’s Chicago International Film Festival don’t exactly cover new ground. Both falling under the “coming of age” umbrella, Ana Cristina Barragán’s Alba and Heartstone depict the dramatic hardships of cruel, confusing adolescence and fumbling sexual awakenings with a remarkable eye for detail, and both come from first-time directors. With Heartstone, director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson captures a community of wayward youth in an Icelandic fishing village, centering on fourteen-year-old Thor (Baldur Einarsson), a cherub-looking boy whose voice is maturing faster than his body, and his best friend Kristján (Blær Hinriksson), a tall, blonde heartbreaker-in-the-making if he weren’t so withdrawn. Both teenagers are on the verge of manhood, with Thor directing his attention to one of the local girls and Kristján silently harboring feelings for Thor.
Simply flipping the expected dynamics of your average, tired gay-boy-likes-straight-boy to straight-boy-is-liked-by-gay-boy breathes new life into this age-old trope. Set mostly outdoors, Guðmundsson, alongside cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen who shot Grímur Hákonarson’s Rams and Sebastian Schipper’s single-take Victoria, has the sort of vision that enhances the already gorgeous landscape and proves himself to be a master at eliciting moving performances from children with no formal acting background.
Heartstone premiered at the Venice Film Festival in the Venice Days section and is playing at various festivals worldwide. I don’t have any distribution information for the film.
With: Baldur Einarsson, Blær Hinriksson, Diljá Valsdóttir, Katla Njalddottir, Søren Malling, Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir, Nanna Kristín Magnúsdóttir, Jónína Þórdís Karlsdóttir, Rán Ragnarsdóttir, Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson