Stuck in a go-nowhere job and a DOA personal life, a discombobulated Halifax twentysomething (singer-songwriter Tanya Davis) finds salvation by returning to her musical roots, in this vibrant comedy-drama from Festival veteran Andrea Dorfman (Love That Boy).
Nova Scotia-based filmmaker Andrea Dorfman (Parsley Days, Love That Boy) returns to the Festival with Heartbeat, a tender and charmingly offbeat portrait of a musician's bumpy road to self-discovery set against the backdrop of Halifax's lively arts scene.
To say that Justine (Tanya Davis) is stuck in a rut would be an understatement. She hates her mind-numbing job as a data management copywriter; she can't stop sleeping with her ex-boyfriend Ben (Stewart Legere); and not only does she live in her grandma's old house, but she wears her granny's old bras (Hey, they fit great.) When things around her start to change — her best friend has a baby; Ben up and leaves town — she's finally forced to deal with her attachment issues and find a way to move forward and define her own life.
In a series of amusing missteps (including trying to convince Ben to have a baby with her), Justine recognizes that she has drifted away from her true passion, music, in part because of an embarrassing stage-fright incident in the past. Once she confronts her fears and reconnects with her music, however, the future suddenly seems full of possibilities — especially after she meets irresistible fellow musician Ruby (Stephanie Clattenburg).
Moving to its own laid-back rhythm and featuring Dorfman's delightful animation, Heartbeat has a vibrant, handcrafted quality. The director has consistently created funny, original, and heartwarming portraits of self-discovery, and she has an ideal collaborator in Davis (a poet and singer-songwriter in her first starring role), who imbues Justine with an awkward, wide-eyed honesty, not to mention a soothingly beautiful voice. With its richly drawn Halifax milieu filled with memorable characters, this is Dorfman's most mature and accomplished work to date.
AGATA SMOLUCH DEL SORBO