Perhaps the overriding lesson learned from “Hungry Hearts,” a new thriller starring Adam Driver and Alba Rohrwacher, is that it may not be a great idea to marry a person you meet in a public washroom. From that opening scene—the “meet cute”—that brings these two twenty-somethings together, director Saverio Costanzo takes the audience on a ride that is part “She’s Having a Baby,” part “Rosemary’s Baby.”
It’s a whirlwind romance for Jude (Driver) and Mina (Rohrwacher) after their initial lavatory love-in. They marry, move to New York and soon enough are expecting their first child. After giving birth Mina starts to exhibit strange, controlling behaviour. Concerned about pollution she refuses to take the child outside and her attitude toward doctors and vaccinations makes Jenny McCarthy seem tolerant. When the baby’s health is compromised Jude knows he must take steps, but how do you tell someone they are killing their child with too much care?
“Hungry Hearts” isn’t a traditional horror film, it’s a slow burn look at the fragile nature of the love of an over protective mother. Director Costanzo gradually builds the tension, visualizing Mina’s claustrophobic world with subtle visual tricks that create a sense of unease. The stale air of the apartment becomes palpable as the story of Mina’s suffocating love continues.
What sets “Hungry Hearts” apart from typical horror is Costanzo’s refusal to treat Mona like a monster. She is killing her child, but Jude still loves her, so Mina’s actions can be interpreted as a whirlwind of desperation and hysteria rather than evil. Rohrwacher’s mix of fragility and steely resolve brings Mina’s neurosis to vivid life. Driver’s Jude is all controlled anger and frustration, often seen up-close-and-personal through Costanzo’s super tight close-ups. Both give remarkable performances in a film that reverberates with themes first explored by Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock but given a new surreal twist here.