Cover Art and Menu: 9/10
Finding a good DVD cover is oh-so-rare. I love the image they put on the cover of Heartlands. It’s so Colin (the leading man). Simple is best in my opinion. With just a glimmer of a look at a man on his little scooter riding against a large open sky it tells you enough about the story to make you curious, but it doesn’t reveal too much.
“Thumbs Up™” as they say. Those two words are probably owned by the two guys who review movies. I’m sure you’ve heard of them. I’ll live dangerously and hope to not infringe on anyone’s copyright ownership. We know how it is today. I might be incarcerated next week by the big bad RIAA.

The Movie: 8/10:
In the story writing business you are held to one rule that seems to be uncompromisable, “the lead character must go through some kind of change”. A writer can show change through the character’s attitude, decisions, even outer appearance as with a new wardrobe and hair style. There is one type of movie that not only alters the look and
persona of a character but it also that takes them out of their environment entirely and makes the outside world the backdrop for their story. I’m referring to the ever popular Road Trip.

Road trip movies come in all varieties. There are the “road trip for road trip sake” flicks that set a bunch of characters out into the wide world of sets and colorful characters mostly because they have no real story to make it tolerable. Then there are the “road trip + other genre” movies like Thelma and Louise that take the new age buddy story and give the characters more dynamic choices to make. The road trip aspect mimic’s their personal changes and also increases the tension, the drama, and the excitement.

So what does all this have to do with Heartlands? This is a road trip tale about a man who doesn’t set out to see the world, he just needs to get to a dart throwing contest to save his marriage. In the process he physically leaves behind an almost stagnant existence and the more he sees the less he wants to go back.

He’s a quiet unassuming man with a crazy hair do. Yes, the hair is important to his journey, trust me. His hair seems to have been left uncut and uncombed because it’s too intimidating for him to take control of.  His calm demeanor, his soft and often meek voice lend him great sympathy but a twinge of being pathetic at the same time. He’s charming and friendly, but it’s his marshmallow personality that eventually pushes his wife away. She’s on her way to a dart throwing competition in Blackpool, “the Las Vegas of the North” as they refer to it, with a teammate of Collin’s. Collin, by the way, is an amazing dart player. Throughout the movie he never misses his target score and never falters in the one thing we can see he’s got a real passion for, darts. He has obviously spent countless hours of his life perfecting his skills. This might give us a hint that even he knew his life was unacceptably boring and drab. The mundane routine of running a small newspaper agent (convenient store to we Americans:) and the lackluster marriage he and Sandra endure seems to bring no joy to Collin. However, when he throws a dart and hits his mark, a glowing smile takes over and a spark of life flickers in his eyes, even if for just a second or two.

We see the need for change in Collin’s life right away. He sits patiently waiting for customers in his small store. He tries to be cheery, helpful and chatty, but there is no one who appreciates his enthusiasm. He’s a fish out of water, but the water happens to be his own life. It takes the shock of his wife’s trotting off with a friend of Collin’s to jump start his adventure to get her back, and maybe accidentally find out where he does fit in.

While riding his trusty scooter, which he lovingly refers to as “Bike”, he encounters what every good road tripper does, new faces, new places, and maybe even a new outlook on life.

With his sheepish charm he makes new friends and of course meets up with some real losers. The thing is, no matter what the people are like, it’s all new to him and it’s all equally exciting. He seems to appreciate even the most awkward, most uncomfortable situations because it’s all part of this new world he’s exploring. A band of girl scouts, a traveling motorcyclist hair dresser and his not-so-shy wife, a sleazy bar owner and his miserable mistress, they all make an impression on Collin, and he on them.

Slowly his outward appearance changes. His helmet, his bike, his hair, his clothes, it’s all up for grabs when it comes to this life altering experience. But does Collin really have it in him to be a different kind of husband? Will he be more exciting? Will he want to take “Sand” back to their drab life and make a fresh start?

The best thing about this film, ok ONE of the best things, is that you never really know what’s around the next corner for our leading man. At one point he stops to admire the falling autumn leaves as if he were seeing Niagra Falls or the Grand Canyon. Something so simple and common place takes his senses to a new level. He gazes in complete and utter awe at a folk singer in a bar. Not in a romantic or infatuated kind of way, but as if he had never seen and heard anything so beautiful in his entire life. I like watching a character who doesn’t give away their own ending.

The pace of the movie is brilliant. It’s methodical and steady but it never seems slow or like it needs a boost. You want to experience everything at the same speed Collin does, and even though he’s got to get to Blackpool before the end of the dart tournament, there is a decisively lingering feeling. It’s as though he starts out to rush to his destination, but the farther he goes, the less his destination becomes his priority. He’s learning about life, facing those changes every leading character must face, and that’s not the kind of thing you want to rush through, now is it?

Heartlands is what some of you might refer to as a “feel good movie”, which is exactly correct. It’s feeling good and road tripping at the same time, two for the price of one. 🙂 So, you’re the cynical tough guy type who doesn’t like feeling good? What a shame. Go watch Die Hard: (pick a number) and watch stuff blow up.

Value: 5/10
Twenty bucks or a great movie but with no extras!!!? People, give me a break. I love the film, with all my heart, really I do. I just can’t recommend buying a DVD for $20 when you get absolutely NOTHING else to go along with it. Find it in your local rental joint and enjoy it for the low low price of 3-4 bucks. If you are a fiend for British movies, definitely snap it up for your collection. It hurts the overall score of the movie to have ZERO extras and then top it off with an unreasonable price. The movie is lovely, but as a DVD it wouldn’t be at the top of my “must have in my collection” list.

Overall Score 7/10