It’s the early 1970s, and Mark (Andy Black) lives with his mother in a small mining town in England. The local economy is in danger, as the miners are striking, and the community is feeling the impact. Still, Mark finds his mind and heart drifting to Sue (Jennifer Bryden), who is living with her aunt, pining to be back home in London, away from the small town people who she doesn’t like much (and who don’t like her either).
Mark and Sue strike up a relationship, and Mark begins thinking of moving away to London with her, to pursue education for his artistic talents. Of course, that costs money, and with little job prospects available, Mark finds himself in a precarious spot. There’s money to be made at the mine, but that would mean crossing the picket line, a move that would make him a local villain.
A tale of young love that leans too heavily on melodramatic and erratic mood swings for my tastes, Andy Mark Simpson’s Young Hearts Run Free still works for the universality of its themes. It’s not a new story to present youth doing their best to escape a small town to move on to bigger and brighter things than their family ever had, but that doesn’t mean a film can’t get points for doing the tale justice. And that’s ultimately where this film lands, taking familiar ideas and themes and doing them well enough.
Back to the melodramatic point, however, the film does have more than a few moments where characters flail wildly from one emotional extreme to another. It’s hard to pull for the love between Mark and Sue when one second you’re buying into it, and the next they’re saying some horrible things to one another; you start to hope they split up, because if they’re showing this much dysfunction now, imagine how horrible a longer relationship could be. Sure, you could explain it all away as the impetuous nature of young love, but that doesn’t make the characters endearing.
At the same time, I get it, especially in relation to the character of Mark. For the most part, he’s painted as a perfect sort; he helps his friends and neighbors, he works hard and he loves easily. If you didn’t give his character some sort of a conflicted emotional response, even if, when wounded, he is extremely harsh-tongued to those who care for him, then there would be little to relate to there either; he wouldn’t have much of a character arc. So, the melodrama makes sense, even if it didn’t always work for me.
Young Hearts Run Free, again, does its job well enough. The look and sound of it all doesn’t blow you away, but it doesn’t slack either. The backdrop of a striking mining town offers up more layers to the tale, but at its core it’s still a simple one of young love between two people who perhaps aren’t right for each other. It’s growing up and finding an identity for oneself, while trying to remain true to the home and community you came up in. There have certainly been films that have handled this subject better, but also most certainly ones that have handled it far worse.
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