Find fun things to doin the Austin, TX area

+ Add A Listing
Austin Movie Blog

Posted: 10:52 a.m. Sunday, March 9, 2014

SXSW capsule review: 'The Heart Machine' 



By Matt Shiverdecker

Louis Black, co-founder of SXSW, did the introduction for this film where he mentioned that seven of the eight films in this year's Narrative Competition were from first time directors. It's not a requirement for being programmed in the category, but it gives credence to the notion that the festival is searching out presenting storytellers with new and strikingly original voices. 

For many people, online dating is now the norm instead of something to be ashamed of. People who once shied away from telling their families and friends where they actually met now happily share tips on which apps and websites they used to find a mate. Zachary Wigon's debut film explores one such relationship, but it's not all sunshine and roses. 

John Gallagher Jr. from HBO's "The Newsroom" stars as Cody, a young Brooklynite who spends most of his evenings on Skype with his girlfriend Virginia (Kate Lyn Sheil, most recently seen in Netflix's "House Of Cards"). They catch up on what their daily activities, they laugh, they dance for each other and even occasionally have cybersex. They're a seemingly happy couple in a long-distance relationship using technology to make the best out of their time apart. 

It takes awhile for us to find out that Cody and Virginia have never met in real life. After connecting through an online dating site, they hit it off but Virginia tells Cody that she's on a fellowship in Berlin and won't be back to New York for six months. They become attached despite the distance, but something is off. In an odd reveal that elicited scattered laughter from my audience, Cody has an entire dossier on Virginia pinned to the wall of his closet. While there isn't much to go on in terms of how much time it takes for this to happen, allegedly separated by an ocean and several time zones, Cody has become convinced that he's being lied to and Virginia actually is nearby in New York. But where?

For those looking for a potential mate online, it's an interesting proposition. Dating site profiles are not exactly where people are at their most truthful. At bare minimum, you often present an idealized version of yourself with a few slight embellishments. Maybe you subtract a few pounds or birthdays. Maybe you use a photo from a few years back. Lies little enough that if you meet in person and truly hit it off, it won't be an issue. In the case of these star-crossed lovers who may or may not be on different continents, the lies aren't always so little. 

Without revealing whether or not Cody's theories are correct, but his quest for truth requires a serious suspension of disbelief from the audience. It's hard to say if a less paranoid version of Cody would have endeared me more to the character. The two lead performances are compelling enough to navigate the somewhat murky waters of the script, but I found myself wavering in the last act about whether or not I cared at all about whether this girl was lying to him or not. 

Even when technology intervenes, the quest for love is easily manipulated by what we choose to believe. Disconnected from reality, it's easier than ever to put your trust in a person who catches your fancy on the other side of your preferred electronic device. As a cautionary tale, this film might make you want to do a little extra research before falling in love online. 

"The Heart Machine" screens again this evening at 7 p.m. at the Rollins Theatre and again on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at the Rollins Theatre. 

 
 

Now Playing in Central Texas

Latest Movie Videos