The Good Heart (2009) Dir. Dagur Kári

Two extraordinary people and two extraordinary actors carry this movie on their backs. And what comes out of it is a charming, heartwarming story.

The movie tells a story of Jacques, an elderly bar keeper, and Lucas, a young homeless guy. They couldn’t be more different: Jacques is an angry, bitter and vulgar loudmouth; Lucas is a shy, taciturn and overly nice introvert. What they have in common is that they are both lonely. They meet in a hospital — Jacques has had his 5th heart attack, and Lucas cut his wrists trying to commit suicide. Jacques decides to take Lucas with him, teach him everything he knows about bartending and barkeeping, and to leave the bar to him since there’s no one else. Two different lifestyles, two different personalities, two different hearts: Lucas’s good heart and Jacques’s failing heart.

The moment they meet and join their lives, everything is changed. We don’t know anything about their pasts. We don’t know how Lucas ended up homeless, sharing a carton box with a homeless kitten. We also don’t know how Jacques ended up as a bitter old man without no family or friends, at all. And it doesn’t matter — it’s not important for the story. However, what is important is the relationship of this unlikely couple. This movie shows much more than just a teacher-student relationship. It presents how a genuine friendship is born out of loneliness, anger, and need. It may sound like a moralizing story, and to some point it is; yet, it is also an uplifting, heartwarming story.

The strongest point is the Brian Cox/Paul Dano couple. They amazingly carry this movie together. A young talented Dano matched with accomplished Cox play like a well-tuned instrument, like the piano in the bar that always plays in the background. Cox’s biting remarks and vulgarism are balanced by Dano’s gentle face. Plus, animals play an important part. They are always present, accompanying the characters, bringing comic relief, or setting the action going. It may be a dog named Rococo, a cute homeless kitten, or a duck called Estragon.

A beautiful story — check. Greatly acted — check. Several animals and one good heart — check. A movie must!

Long days, pleasant nights,

Veronica Bazydlo

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