It’s difficult to know how to classify “The Violent Heart,” a new movie on VOD starring Emmy nominee Jovan Adepo and Grace Van Patten. It’s part “Romeo & Juliet,” part thriller and mostly melodrama. Director Kerem Sanga juggles the movie’s tonal shifts to create a movie about the aftershocks of trauma.
Set in the American heartland, the story centers around twenty-four-year-old Daniel (Jovan Adepo), a small-town mechanic struggling to move forward with his life after the murder of his sister, which he witnessed, and a stint in jail for accidentally blinding a schoolmate. When 18-year-old high school student Cassie (Grace Van Patten) drops off her dad’s (Lukas Haas) car to the autobody shop, sparks fly and romance blossoms.
Despite her parent’s disapproval the young couple bring out the best in one another, sharing secrets as Cassie encourages Daniel to follow his dream of joining the Marines. Both are looking to the future but soon learn tragic lessons on how the past has a nasty way of sneaking up from behind.
“The Violent Heart” never really gets the pulse racing, but is made compelling by the chemistry between the two charismatic leads, Adepo and Van Patten.
Adepo exposes Daniel’s deep wounds, psychological trauma that manifests itself in angry outbursts. “You start to not even notice it,” he says of his deeply rooted ire. “You just kind of become an angry person.” Still, he’s a work in progress, with his eyes locked on a better future. It’s an impressive, internal performance.
Van Patten is more external, a naïve young woman whose confidence is shaken by secrets and echoes from the past.
Together they are compelling, overcoming obstacles as a couple. But when “The Violent Heart” makes a hard U-Turn from star-crossed lovers into a detective story it loses itself in the plot’s twists and turns.
The supporting cast, including Mary J. Blige as Daniel’s mother and Haas as Cassie’s dad, do what they can with underwritten roles, but they’re mostly there to provide the puzzle pieces that complete the backstory of the leads.
In the end “The Violent Heart” succumbs to melodrama, but before the climax sucks the life out of the story, it is an interesting look at legacy and how the weight of the past can slowly crush a person’s spirit.