Cinema Review: The Heart Machine | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, December 8th, 2023  

The Heart Machine

Studio: FilmBuff
Directed by Zachary Wigon

Oct 23, 2014 Web Exclusive
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Cody (John Gallagher Jr., Short Term 12) and Virginia (Kate Lyn Sheil, Sun Don’t Shine) are a young couple who met and fell in love online. Unfortunately, Virginia is on an untimely fellowship in Berlin. Or so she claims. While counting down the months until Virginia returns to New York so they can finally meet in person, the couple spends their days doing couple-y stuff – cooking, joking, dancing, fighting, sharing poetry, even having sex – over Skype. Once the laptop closes, though, Cody suspects that Virginia never left for Berlin. As his obsession grows, Cody rampages through Manhattan’s East Village looking for Virginia, both desperate for the truth and terrified his relationship may have been built on a lie.

At one point Cody confesses his fanatical investigation to a drunk girl and asks, “Do you think I’m crazy?” The answer should be a big yes. While there’s rapport in Cody and Virginia’s relationship, their conversation also has the shallowness of a relationship shorter than six months, where the two have never met in person. Comparatively, Cody’s search for Virginia’s whereabouts is over-the-top frenzied. Cody’s fumbling but strangely competent ability to lie his way into strangers’ apartments and access their electronic devices is disturbing enough to make one want to install an extra latch on the door. Had he been a serial killer, The Heart Machine would make for a great thriller, however, for the sake of answering a low-stake question to a two-dimensional relationship, Cody seems obsessed for no reason. As Cody loiters around parks and cafes with an unbalanced look in his eyes, Virginia is on an equally impulsive search. Despite her emotional bond with Cody, Virginia continues to trod dating sites for hook-ups. Although Sheil is successful in portraying a girl both frightened by and hopeful for closeness, without providing an excusable reason for her intimacy issue or room for growth, the character quickly loses the audience’s sympathy as well.

The answer Cody and Virginia seek is always one question and one confession away, yet both choose anything but to be truthful to each other and themselves. Despite Gallagher and Sheil’s acting finesse, an hour and half is simply too long to spend with self-absorbed characters as they sum up all the unpleasantness of online dating.

Author rating: 3/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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