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By Phil Hall | February 17, 2003

“Lawless Heart” is a small, stale British film involving romantically comic misadventures of three men brought to together by a funeral. Unfortunately, the film is (to employ an overused expression) about as funny as a funeral.
The dead man in question is Stuart, whose drowning brings the principal characters together. First up his brother-in-law Dan, a stuffy farmer with a wife and kids. During the funeral, Dan finds himself enchanted by Corinne, a Frenchwoman who supposedly lights a spark in him. Or perhaps she does–it is not entirely clear, given that Bill Nighy (as Dan) and Clementine Celarie (as Corrine) play their roles with such parched dryness that even the most talented psychic would have problems understanding what they are thinking. The fact that Dan is unaware that Corinne is the florist in the village where they both live seems a bit of a stretch, but in any event he supposedly considers having a fling with her. Except that he chickens out at the last minute of meeting Corinne for a romantic dinner and instead gets a quickie b*****b from a young girl who mistakes Dan for a taxi driver (don’t ask and we’ll gladly refrain from telling).
Then there is Nick, who was Stuart’s boyfriend. Nick has a running problem with Dan’s wife and Stuart’s sister Judy, as Stuart died without leaving a will and Judy takes command of her brother’s estate without Nick putting up one word of protest. Nick somehow or other gets involved with Charlie…but this Charlie is a girl and gay Nick, deciding to see what the other 90% are up to, takes the plunge into the straight world courtesy of Charlie’s happy portal of love. Considering this film was created by the same filmmakers who made the critically-acclaimed and unapologetically gay feature “Boyfriends,” it is hard to imagine how this kind of a plot twist could ever find its way in front of a camera.
Then there is Tim, who was Stuart’s best friend but who was unaware that Stuart was gay. Confused? Never mind, since Tim has his own baggage to check. It seems Tim was away from home for eight years and returns to find his old world has completely vanished. He immediately falls in love with Leah, who runs the local dress shop but who was actually the old flame of Tim’s adopted brother David. Tim wants to open a bar in London, but no one will give him money for this venture until Nick, who finally gets Stuart’s estate from Dan’s wife Judy, agrees to stake him to the effort. Did we forget to mention that Tim and Nick tried to live as roommates but it failed because…oh, never mind.
“Lawless Heart” may seem fairly convoluted to describe, but the film is actually a lot less involving to watch. Filmmakers Neil Hunter and Tom Hunsinger share the writing and directing credits, but between them they fail to come up with anything that even vaguely resembles an interesting story. In attempting to underplay the plotlines with droll and deadpan humor, Hunter and Hunsinger somehow create situations which are more dull than droll and more dead than deadpan. The characters carry on with such stiff upper lips in the face of their various entanglements that it seems their states have less to do with being British and more to do with being stuck in a movie where rigor mortis already invaded the lifeless script.
What is there to recommend in “Lawless Heart”? Well, the film was made in the wonderful locations of Essex and on the Isle of Man, and Anglophiles eager to see a British film that has nothing to do with London or stately old manors will enjoy this rarely-seen on-screen slice of cool Britannia. Otherwise, “Lawless Heart” would be better dubbed “Lifeless Heart” and only the most rabid devotees of British cinema would be advised to consider seeing this flick.

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