Arts Review, Movies
Andrea Dorfman, director and writer
Starring: Tanya Davis (Justine), Stephanie Clattenburg (Ruby), Kristin Langille (Lorna), Glen Matthews (Drew), Jackie Torrens (Louise), Stewart Legere (Ben), Jim Hanman (Arlo), Naomi Blackhall-Butler (Maureen)
Halifax’s Andrea Dorfman is a unique talent: she’s an animator, director and scriptwriter, who has produced a lively body of work ranging from features to shorts to music videos over the past decade and a half. Her films are quirky human comedies filled with funny asides and emotional scenes that add layers to her stories. Dorfman’s films feel more like short stories or poems and shouldn’t be judged by the same standards as “novelistic” mainstream cinema.
Her new feature Heartbeat premiered at TIFF and stars Tanya Davis, who was Halifax’s poet laureate three years ago. Davis is a singer-songwriter as well but she had never acted before this film. Dorfman made it easy for her, crafting a tale of Justine, a gifted woman with musical performance anxiety, locked into a dead-end relationship with a painter and a boring job, who finds the courage to break free.
With her jean jacket and down-home style, Justine/Tanya feels like a character from the 1960s. That’s reinforced by the presence of her folk music mentor Arlo, who encourages the “pretty lady” to play her guitar again. But one of Arlo’s friends, Ruby, who has a tattoo and plays drums in a local gender-busting band, adds a more contemporary touch to the film. When Ruby’s interest in Justine proves more than friendly, Dorfman’s film leaps forward to modern times.
Heartbeat benefits from Andrea Dorfman’s animation, which allows Justine to recite poems about life and love to the accompaniment of cartoony visual takes of the heart. Tanya Davis is good as Justine but she’s more pleasant than compelling. Adding a bit of sex and drama is Stephanie Clattenburg as Ruby; though it’s her first feature film, she does have presence on the screen.
Heartbeat is a sweet film, slow-paced and intermittently amusing. People who see it will be entertained.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical 96.3 FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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