A mother’s fanatical concern for her baby’s well being has potentially deadly consequences in “Hungry Hearts,” a strange, harrowing, often remarkable story of love and obsession.
Things start out lovely and romantically for New Yorker Jude (Adam Driver) and the Italian-born Mina (Alba Rohrwacher), including a most unusual “meet cute” and a joyous wedding party set to the unlikely, somehow perfect strains of “Flashdance ... What a Feeling.”
Post-nuptials, however, several resonant events — a psychic reading, a recurring nightmare — turn the pregnant Mina skittish and fearful. By the time Mina gives birth, she’s become so irrationally fixated on her baby’s health that she feeds the boy only homegrown vegetables, keeps him indoors to shield against germs and eschews all traditional medicine.
Gentle, supportive Jude is unable to wrench the withering, intractable Mina out of her increasingly fraught state. That is, until Jude steals his son away to see a pediatrician who reveals that the boy is malnourished, underdeveloped and at dire risk.
What follows is a snowballing series of measures to protect the baby that pit Jude against Mina in ways that are enormously tense and affecting. Entering the fray is Jude’s worried, intuitive mother (Roberta Maxwell), who’s staunchly determined to help her son and grandson.
Driver and Rohrwacher are excellent in difficult roles. There’s also fine work by director Saverio Constanzo, who adapted the script from the novel by Marco Franzoso. Dubious ending aside, Constanzo’s approach to structuring, shooting and pacing the tricky material proves masterful and memorable.
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes.
Playing: Sundance Sunset, Los Angeles. Also on video on demand.