The Lawless Heart

2002, Movie, R, 110 mins


A funeral sparks a complicated series of romantic encounters that entangle the friends and family of the dead man. The story begins at Stuart Woods's (David Coffey) funeral in a small town on England's Isle of Man and observes three mourners over the course of several days, each story overlapping and intersecting with the others at key points. Stuart always told his friends to seize life by the horns, and his accidental drowning is a terrible shock to everyone who loved him, none more than his boyfriend, Nick (Tom Hollander), and his sister, Judy (Ellie Haddington). The first thread follows Stuart's taciturn brother-in-law, Dan (Bill Nighy); he and Judy, who have two children, run her uncle's farm and are perpetually strapped for cash. Stuart died intestate, so his estate legally belongs to Judy; she feels Stuart would have wanted Nick to have the money, while Dan thinks it should stay within the family. At the funeral, Dan falls into conversation with flirtatious French florist, Corinne (Clementine Celarie), and contemplates an extramarital fling. The second thread focuses on Nick, who must make some serious decisions in the midst of his grief. The most pressing is whether he should keep the restaurant he and Stuart opened together or move back to London. Charlie (Sukie Smith), a hard-luck local girl, strikes up a friendship and clearly wants more from Nick, while Stuart's cousin Tim (Douglas Henshall) has temporarily moved into the spare room and is driving Nick mad with his carousing and generally inconsiderateness. The third is dominated by Tim, who chose travelling over running his family's farm — the same one Judy and Dan took over. After eight footloose and fancy free years abroad, Tim falls hard for Leah (Josephine Butler), only to find that she's got unfinished business with his adopted brother, David (Stuart Lang), who works for Dan and Judy. The film's three-thread structure is deftly handled; in each succeeding section, stories from the previous one are expanded on and/or shown in a different light. Apparently inexplicable bits of dialogue and behavior are explained, motivations come into focus, relationships are clarified and ironies reveal themselves. The interconnected nature of small town life becomes clearer as each piece is added to the puzzle, and broadly drawn characters develop subtle shadings as their histories and secrets are revealed. Despite its leisurely pace, this unpretentious, character-driven picture is a low-key charmer. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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The Lawless Heart
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