‘The Violent Heart’ Review: Secrets and Lies

When the elusive melodrama “The Violent Heart” begins, Daniel is a child who idolizes his older sister Wendy (Rayven Symone Ferrell). She is beautiful and gentle, a high school student with the entire world ahead of her. One night, Daniel watches as Wendy climbs into a car he doesn’t recognize. He follows her on his dirt bike, and he’s the only person present when Wendy is shot and killed by a man whose face Daniel never glimpses.

Years later, Daniel (Jovan Adepo) is still dealing with the aftermath of this traumatic experience. He’s 24 years old with a criminal record, yet he has started to rebound. But then he meets Cassie (Grace Van Patten), a high school senior who is reeling from the discovery that her father (Lukas Haas) might be having an affair. Newly rebellious, Cassie is quick to assure Daniel that she’s 18 and capable of making her own decisions, and she pursues a relationship with him. Together, the couple begins to talk through their pasts, finding unexpected common ground.

The writer and director, Kerem Sanga, has created a world for his characters where messy relationships abound. Secrets are kept, often with good reason. Sanga encourages his actors to underplay the rage and suspicion that lingers beneath their interactions, and he instead uses the movie’s electronic score to build a melancholy, even ominous mood.

The movie cultivates an ambient sense that not all is well. Some of these central relationships are inappropriate, even dangerous, but the subtlety of Sanga’s filmmaking allows for big twists to come as a genuine surprise. It makes for a successful manipulation of his audience’s expectations, even if the overall effect is a movie that feels slightly detached.

The Violent Heart
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Apple TV, FandangoNow and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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