Review – Fantaspoa Film Festival: Bloodshot Heart (2021)

Cinema is rife with stories about overbearing mothers and the sons who can’t seem to leave them. Part of the Fantaspoa Film Fest, Bloodshot Heart is the newest addition to this group. Hans is a 44 year old driving instructor who lives with his mother who not only tries to over protect him, but she also tries to control him with her religious ideologies. When a young woman shows up to rent the extra room in their home, Hans and is already unraveling psyche come even more undone.

Played by Richard James Allen, Hans is such a sweet and light presence on this earth. Reliving memories of a past love named Sarah, he immediately sees the new lodger in his house as a reincarnation of her. We only learn of Sarah and her yellow palette through Super 8 flashbacks. Hans keeps one of Sarah’s outfits and various watercolor portraits of her: with these, he puts the outfit on a mannequin and hangs the watercolors on the wall while laying out fresh flowers and daydreaming of her. While this could easily feel supremely icky, Allen manages to make Hans sympathetic and, at times, relatable. Hans is that awkward person that you inherently feel the need to protect. He may always be wearing red, but his personality is more of a soft pink. His mother Catherine (Dina Pinazzo), on the other hand, is a different story. Clothed in royal purple, she is always meticulously done up and it’s a pity that no one except Hans gets to see it. In fact, Pinazzo has a beautiful scene where she speaks of being a widow who slowly lost contact with friends and she has become someone who rarely leaves the house anymore, but yet she does her hair, makeup and dresses like a fine lady. Surely, this must add fuel to her desire to keep Hans to herself and try to run off new lodger Matilda.

Matilda arrives at night in the middle of a rain storm and she will later prove to have a sketchy background, but Hans does not care. He sees only the return of his beloved Sarah and this is where everything goes wonky. Deciding he no longer needs to take his meds, Hans and his never defined mental illness decide on a truly crazy plan to win the heart of Matilda.

Writer/director Parish Malfitano utilizes color schemes and score to great effect in his storytelling. Enveloped in warmth and happy music, the first half of Bloodshot Heart feels like a love letter to Almodovar with notes of De Palma and a little Giallo. After Hans and the two men that he blackmails into helping him pull off a haphazard kidnapping, the music and color schemes turn chaotic and manic: this is where the various color palettes really come into play and are a bit more obvious. It’s also where some of the weaker moments of the film take a bit of shine off of the much stronger first half. Mental illness and meth induced hallucinations are certainly wacky visuals, but they almost feel as though they belong to a different film altogether.

Bloodshot Heart travels well worn territory, but the stylized visuals utilized by Maltifano make it feel unique. While some elements of the story feel a tad underdeveloped and the unreliable narration of a psychotic protagonist can just be straight up confusing rather than endearing or clever, the performances round everything out. In their final scene, Allen and Pinazzo leave the viewer with an emotional conundrum while Malfitano leaves you eagerly awaiting his next film.

Bloodshot Heart is part of Fantaspoa, all film screenings are geo-blocked to Brazil, with additional details available at http://www.fantaspoa.com

Lisa Fremont

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