New to Blu-ray/DVD: Hungry Hearts & Testament of Youth


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Editor’s Notes: Hungry Hearts & Testament of Youth are out on their respective formats October 20th.

Hungry Hearts

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Hungry Hearts (IFC Films) taps into the national controversy about the vocal anti-vaccine movement. New York newlyweds Jude (Adam Driver, Inside Llewyn Davis) and Mina (Alba Rohrwacher, I Am Love) have a seemingly perfect relationship. But things take an unsettling turn with the birth of their son. Convinced that the baby must be kept free of all contaminants, Mina develops fanatical obsessions with veganism, cleanliness and purity that may kill the child unless Jude can stop her.

When pregnant, Mina consults a storefront psychic who declares she is carrying an “indigo child” — a child destined for some kind of specialness — and Mina starts to believe that menacing dreams are foreshadowing bad events. To prevent them, she imposes rules, drawing upon assorted philosophies, theories and “pop science” about health and well being, even as her doctor cautions her about carrying an underweight child. In labor prematurely, she becomes incensed at being forced into a caesarian section by a complicated delivery. At home, she keeps her infant son close, never allowing him outside and keeping visitors away. When Jude comes home, she becomes agitated about what he brings in from “outside.”

Though Hungry Hearts resonates as a commentary on the anti-vaccine fringe, untenable health food obsessions, and certain religious beliefs, its primary focus is the psychological toll Mina’s obsessiveness takes on her marriage. Parents in particular will be totally involved as they watch a well-meaning mother going to destructive extremes. For the bulk of the movie, the father seems too willing to humor his wife and go along with her way of “protecting” their child from disease. When he can no longer deny the evidence of his own eyes, Jude has to practically kidnap his own son and take him to a pediatrician to confirm that he is underdeveloped, malnourished, and in serious risk of further deteriorating health.

There are no bonus features on this unrated, widescreen DVD release.

Testament of Youth

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 1.39.24 PMTestament of Youth (Sony Home Entertainment) is based on a 1933 memoir by Vera Brittain about coming of age during World War I, one of the few books to address the war from a female point of view. In flashbacks from Armistice Day celebrations in 1918, the British film depicts teenage Vera (Alicia Vikander) trying to convince her father (Dominic West) to let her attend Oxford University. She is courted by aspiring poet Roland Leighton (Kit Harrington), volunteers as a nurse when hostilities in Europe break out, and witnesses, close-up, the horrors of war.

Roland is the first to enlist, followed by his best friend, Victor (Colin Morgan), and Vera’s younger brother Edward (Taron Egerton, Kingsman: The Secret Service). They all believe the conflict will be so short-lived that they will be home for Christmas. But the war lasts four years, during which Vera develops from schoolgirl to frontline nurse to powerful anti-war voice. With the backdrop of a global war, the film takes on a noble air despite showing no battle scenes. Director James Kent focuses on the home front and field hospitals to show how everyday life in England was dictated by the war and the toll on its young men. Set during the same period as Downton Abbey, the film is beautifully shot.

Ms. Vikander convincingly portrays young Vera’s journey from idealistic hopes and dreams to the edge of despair and back again. The Swedish actress is believable as an English girl with a forceful conscience, intelligence, and purpose. Vera’s humanity and concern for the war-wounded extends to German soldiers, an unpopular stand in a country rife with anti-German sentiment. An early feminist before there was such a term, Vera is deeply affected by terrible personal losses and takes up the cause of pacifism as her way to decry the tragedy of war.

Bonus extras on the Blu-ray release include deleted scenes, commentary with Kit Harrington and director James Kent, behind-the-scenes making-of featurette, and theatrical trailer.


About Author

For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.