Review: A Heartbeat Away


Directed by: Gale Edwards
Written by:Julie Kincade
Starring: Sebastian Gregory, Isabel Lucas, William Zappa, Tammy McIntosh, Colin Friels, Roy Billing
Released: March 17, 2011
Grade: C-

Let me throw a hypothetical question at you.  Imagine that you have a 16-year-old daughter who has landed the starring role in her high school’s senior play.  You go along to the opening night and you are stunned by just how bad it is.  You can see your daughter is trying her hardest but the storyline is awful and the dialogue is even worse.

When you see her backstage afterwards, what do you say?  Do you lie and say how much you loved the show and her performance?  Or do you be honest and find a polite way of expressing what you really think?

I feel like I’m in a similar position when trying to review A Heartbeat Away.  I really like seeing the Australian public support locally made films.  I know a few within the industry and even more trying to break into the industry.  It’s hard to get financiers to fund Australian features when they see a track record of failures at the box-office.  They’d rather invest in a romantic comedy starring Jennifer Lopez (and that horrible thought keeps me awake every night).

As much as I’d love to tell you to spend a few dollars checking out this film, I sadly cannot.  You are better off saving your time and waiting until a decent Aussie film comes along.  I’ll be sure to tell you when it does.  As Animal Kingdom proved last year, it is still possible for a local film to find success on the back of great reviews and strong word of mouth.

This cliché ridden tale is set in the fictitious town of Montague.  Those from Brisbane will recognise a few of the sights as much of the film was shot in Shorncliffe and Sandgate.  One shot during the opening credits as it’s just a few doors down from my grandmother’s house at Deagon.  If you get bored with the plot (and I suggest you will), you can at least play a game of “spot the landmark”.

The story centres on a marching band that is trying to win the regional championships for the first time in 20 years.  When the regular conductor is injured in an accident, his teenage son reluctantly steps in to help out.  His job will be made more difficult however as there’s a nasty property developer looking to sabotage their chances.  If they lose the competition, he’ll take title of their clubhouse and turn it into a multi-million dollar tourist resort.

At the preview screening I attended, the film did receive a nice round of applause as the credits started to roll.  This leads me to believe that there may be an audience for A Heartbeat Away.  I’m describing it as being like the pilot for a cheesy 90s sitcom that no television network wanted to buy.  As unappetising as that may sound, it could be the perfect dish for those who like a feel-good, innocent drama.

Then again, perhaps the round of applause was because several of the audience members had a small part in the film?  Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt.  This film will need all the help it can get.