The 2016 Australian indie Sacred Heart begins at the funeral of the wife of our protagonist, Robert. The audience is alerted to the tone of the film at the moment the priest at the funeral tells Robert, “Your wife and child are with God now”, to which Robert responds “Fuck You!” Robert is incredibly angry that his pregnant wife died, claiming that she was perfect. She rescued Robert from a horrible fate that we’re shown in flashback, and the fact that she dies does not make sense to Robert, because he believes if anyone deserved to die, it was him.
We then witness Robert’s complete self-destruction that occurs within the same day of his wife’s funeral. Drugs, booze, guns, all manner of insanity are used by Robert to quell his guilt. Then, the same priest that Robert cursed out at the funeral arrives at his home. Robert proceeds to berate this poor priest for way too long (seriously, about half the running time of the film). Robert blames God, and his priest by proxy, for his wife’s death. The truth is he truly blames himself, and when we find out why, everything shockingly falls into place. It is vindicating when the tables turn as the priest has had enough of Robert’s abuse. Robert for all intents and purposes is basically the absolute worst person throughout almost the entirety of the film. The priest gives all the vitriol back to Robert and then some, which forces Robert to face the guilt he has and to return back to God, in his own way.
“…the fact that she dies does not make sense to Robert, because he believes if anyone deserved to die…”
Everyone deals with grief in different ways, and Sacred Heart explores that theme very well. Robert’s anger eventually makes sense to us. We see that anyone can be capable of that level of self-destruction and caustic personality if circumstances led one down that path. Through the priest, we are able to empathize with Robert in the end, even though he makes it extremely difficult to do so. Both David Field and Kipan Rothbury are superb as The Priest and Robert, respectfully, giving life to characters that in any other film might seem cliche. However, in Sacred Heart, the dichotomy between this priest and his parishioner is very compelling.
Kosta Nikas’ debut feature, Sacred Heart is an immensely powerful meditation on guilt and religious faith (or lack thereof). Nikas wrote and directed the film and the writing especially is masterful. The film is somewhat of a “bottle episode”, taking place mostly in Robert’s apartment with some flashbacks. It still remains thrilling without having to change scenery that often. The only thing that kind of annoyed me about Sacred Heart is an unnecessarily long drone shot at the beginning, it’s one of those shots that started out beautiful but went on for way too long and became gratuitous, and not in a fun way, in my opinion. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. The script is incredible and I’m very curious to see Nikas’ future output.
Sacred Heart (2016) Written and directed by Kosta Nikas. Starring David Field, Kipan Rothbury, Lizzie Schebesta, and Barbara Gouskos.
7 Out of 10 Stars