The timing isn’t the greatest for psychiatrist Kris Sharma (Val Lauren) and artist Madeline (Alicia Minshew), who meet on the cusp of Kris moving from Savannah, Georgia out to Seattle to start his own practice. Still, they indulge in the building of a relationship together, connecting in a way that seems timeless and fated. That is, until Kris gets a call from his family in India, summoning him back to be wed to the woman he was promised to by his parents.
Reluctantly, Kris returns to India to sort out the predicament, leaving his burgeoning relationship with Madeline on indefinite hold. As he navigates the culture and traditions of home, Kris is simultaneously being haunted by the vision of a strange woman. The mystery of who this woman is, and what she has to do with Kris’ past, and potential future, becomes one more thing for Kris to work out before he can finally make a life for himself.
James Kicklighter and Rajesh K. Rathi’s global Desires of the Heart is a study in many different directions. Depending on how interested you are in indulging, you could walk with this one alongside the subjects of fate, reincarnation, tradition, art, relationships and even self-sufficiency. What could easily have been a simple romantic tale of Kris and Madeline reveals itself to be much grander.
For instance, early on it would not be outside the realm of sense to think that you’re going to spend the rest of the film with Kris and Madeline as equal protagonists, and their relationship as the main core. This is both true and false, as the film becomes predominantly Kris’ story as he travels to India to sort his life out. Without Madeline, however, maybe he never second-guesses his life, and perhaps other developments are never set into motion. Then again, maybe this personal growth was always coming.
In that way, the film becomes the tale of Kris, but even that is eventually turned on its ear, as his tale is Madeline’s tale, and yet both their stories are also not necessarily their own. Confused? I apologize for not being terribly detailed in explaining why I feel that way about the narrative, but I don’t wish to spoil anyone’s enjoyment of the more surprising elements of the story. I’ll just say that the film is both a study in individuality and personal choice, and contradictorily a fable of fate.
The cinematography in the film matches its narrative’s expansive ambitions with gorgeous visions that turn both Georgia and India into almost permanent states of postcard-friendly imagery. The quality scenery is matched by the attractiveness of the leads, Val Lauren and Alicia Minshew, who offer up another element to enjoy, if you’re not impressed in any other way. Of course, they’re not just good-looking humans with no acting chops, and they succeed in their performances, keeping a tale that can be somewhat fantastical grounded in a sense of reality.
Sometimes Desires of the Heart feels like one of those films where its narrative ambition gets the better of it, but there are indeed moments of mastery to be found throughout. It’s a strong film, and I’d rather have a film take risks and not quite always work for me than simply play it safe and mediocre.
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