Published on June 27th, 2016 | by Allan Brown0
EIFF 2016: My Feral Heart Review
Running Time: 83 minutes
Director: Jane Gull
Writers: Pamela Marin, Kevin Cook
Cast: Will Rastall, Shana Swash, Steven Brandon, Pixie Le Knot, Eileen Pollock, Suzanna Hamilton,Will Rastall
Luke is a happy-go-lucky, fully independent young man living with Down’s syndrome. Despite being the soul carer for his elderly and infirm mother, Luke lives an active and fulfilled life tending to her with unrivalled care and affection. But when Luke’s mother dies quietly in her sleep, he is faced with huge change and the prospect of moving to a residential care facility, a far cry from the unhindered freedom he was used to at home. Despite this challenging and initially unsettling time, Luke soon warms to the idea of new experiences, a chance for reflection and new friendships that come in the form of Eve; a support worker, and Pete; a community service operative, in Jane Gull’s touching British indie drama; My Feral Heart (Trailer).
First of all, credit must be given to not only director Jane Gull, who has successfully broke down barriers and stereotypes in her principle casting of Steven Brandon (an actor with Down’s Syndrome), but to writer Duncan Paveling who’s decision NOT to make the central character’s condition the main focus or drive of the narrative, celebrating his ability, not his disability, is nothing short of a revelation and long desired breath of fresh air.
Newcomer Shana Swash (Eastenders) is a delight on screen as Eve. Her character is straight talking, yet kind and caring, and her cheeky interactions with Luke (Steven) are note perfect. That too can be said of Will Rastall (Hollyoaks) who plays Pete. As the film progresses, his friendship and bond with Luke becomes stronger, as these two kindred spirits begin to realise their lives and past are not so different. But it is Steven Brandon who guides us on this journey, effortless carrying the film on his shoulders (often on his own) with a confident nuanced performance that is everything from fun and cheeky to utterly heart rendering. The central trio are wonderfully realised by a cast who all seem to be in tune with the director’s vision, echoing an authenticity and naturalism that is akin to a ken Loach or Mike Leigh drama.
Even though the characters often bring an air of warmth to the surface narrative, there are shades of darker elements bubbling just below, adding yet another layer of intrigue to the story as it begins to unfold. The film too isn’t afraid of tackling some big societal issues along its slender running time, including; fox hunting and human trafficking. These additions are skilfully weaved into the narrative, never feeling forced or shoehorned in. But in the end, this is Luke’s story; a story of love, loss and learning to adjust, and just as Luke has the chance to care for another in need (played by the beautiful and flexible Pixie Le Knot), he too learns to allow others to care for him. This closing sentiment to Luke’s story is not only a wonderful expression of warmth, but a beautiful character-arc fully realised.
Summary: A revelation in indie filmmaking that not only tackles some big societal issues, but reminds us all that despite who we are, what we look like, or where we come from, “We're not so different you and me"