Starring: Guillaume Canet, Charlotte Le Bon, Anne Le Ny
Director: Marie Madinier
Running Time: 81 mins
Arctic Heart (Le secret des banquises) is a French film about a young medical lab assistant with a deep affection for her brilliant superior, so in order to get closer to him, she puts her life on the line in a groundbreaking experiment.
Offbeat, unique and original. All words that could easily describe a film like Arctic Heart, but it’s hard to look past the fact that it’s just a really, really weird film. Of course, being weird doesn’t make a film bad, and the sheer strangeness of some things about this film in fact make it all the more intriguing, and with a number of great performances and a good (and very strange) sense of humour, the film proves a surprisingly captivating watch throughout.
First things first, Arctic Heart takes what seems like a strange but still perfectly realistic premise in a really weird direction. As a result, it may not take any awards for being particularly consistent or down-to-earth, but what it does do is set up a really enjoyable unpredictability throughout, teeing up each of the film’s next twists brilliantly.
The film, as gleefully bizarre and entertaining as it is, doesn’t come off like a more light-hearted comedy-drama. It’s quiet, slow and doesn’t feature many big laughs, but underneath the surface is a playful and original sense of humour that gives the film really great character, and makes it even more enjoyable than simply sitting back and basking in the weirdness.
So, come the end, Arctic Heart works surprisingly well as an enjoyably weird pseudo sci-fi movie, an offbeat comedy-drama, and also a moderately interesting drama too.
I can’t say that any of the film’s themes about the limits of medical research and testing – whether ethical or physical – are particularly engaging or thought-provoking, but where the film does impress is with a small group of unique characters whose relationships make for some intriguing and difficult hurdles over the course of the story.
The unrequited affection of the lab assistant for her superior is the catalyst for the core of the story, as she puts her life on the line to take part in his experiment, but the film also grabs your attention with the dynamic between the two leads and a number of supporting characters, with Anne Le Ny’s experiment team leader actually proving one of the film’s most interesting and entertaining personalities throughout.
As a result, this isn’t just a film that’s strange for the sake of it. It’s weird, and features some unsettling and unpredictable twists in an even odder direction, but it has real depth, good humour and a collection of characters that make it a far more engaging and enjoyable watch than would be the case if it were all just about the weirdness.
Overall, Arctic Heart isn’t the most thought-provoking or riveting piece of storytelling, but its unique and striking brand of strange ideas, mixed in with a playful sense of humour, good performances and characters and the odd bit of engrossing drama make it a thoroughly engaging watch throughout, and one that’s certainly worth the watch if you fancy something a little out of your comfort zone, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4.