A young married couple in New York City engages in a fateful struggle over the life of their newborn child, in this eerie, claustrophobic suspense drama from Italian director Saverio Costanzo (Private, In Memory of Me, The Solitude of Prime Numbers).
Saverio Costanzo revels in claustrophobic stories of entrapment and emotional trauma. Hungry Hearts, set almost entirely within the confines of a New York apartment, will have some people reaching for Rosemary's Baby comparisons, but Costanzo is very much his own man as he brings an eerie feel to this combustible tale of a husband and wife battling over the future of their newborn baby.
The film covers the entire history of a relationship, from the first meeting between the gregarious Jude (Adam Driver, also appearing at the Festival in While We're Young and This is Where I Leave You) and the shy, withdrawn Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) when they are trapped together in a restaurant washroom — a foreboding of what will transpire — to the film's shocking denouement.
Jude is American, Mina Italian. The two eventually marry and she gets pregnant. We sense early on that things may go awry given Mina's slight eccentricities, but it is with the premature birth of their child that the couple's very different ideas about parenting come into conflict. As the baby fails to gain weight, Jude and his hovering mother start to suspect that Mina's beliefs are threatening the child's survival.
Hungry Hearts grows increasingly gothic in tone and feel as the eerie logic of its plot unfolds. Distorted wide-angles mingle with ominous overhead shots as the domestic drama plays out, a child's life held in the balance. Who, finally, is the unstable one: the overprotective new mother, or the seemingly rational father whose patience stretches until it snaps in sudden outbursts of violent anger? Costanzo winds up the tension and never lets go.