2015 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: The intimate and calm nature of Diane Bell‘s “Bleeding Heart” is simply mesmerizing. Starring Jessica Biel as May, a yoga instructor who finds her biological sister Shiva (played by Zosia Mamet), who is a sex worker with an abusive boyfriend (played by Joe Anderson). The unlikely pair explores the boundaries of their new-found relationship, the identity of family, and the protection of one another.
Bell’s handle of the subject matter is very impressive, as she chooses to focus on reactions in several key scenes rather than words. Having only one feature under her belt (the little seen “Obselidia” in 2010), for which she received two Independent Spirit Award nominations, Bell emulates the passion and demand of storytelling as seen by such filmmakers like Patty Jenkins and Lisa Cholodenko. Taking on double duties with writing the film’s script, her exploration into these two female characters isn’t as intricate or precise as you’d like. With an 80 minute runtime, there’s likely a few more minutes of dialogue, coverage, or something additional that would have rounded out these two women a bit more.
One area that Bell doesn’t lack is in her ability to get the very best work out of her actors. Jessica Biel may have finally found her vehicle. With an internalized and very subtle performance, Biel excels in her ability to find the very motivation of May. Her yearn for family, both with her sister and her boyfriend (played by Edi Gathegi, who you’ll know from “Gone Baby Gone” and “X-Men: First Class”) is richly profound, all leading up to a climax that will keep you at the edge of your seat.
You may all know the adorkable Zosia Mamet as Shoshanna Shapiro on HBO’s hit-show “Girls,” a role that she’s confidently called her own in an ensemble that doesn’t exactly allow her to shine. She sheds all her cute and innocent personas to inhabit the soul of an impenetrable woman. Mamet’s work as Shiva is hands down the best performance seen by an actress this year yet. She doesn’t play it safe or conventional as we’ve seen with other “hookers with a heart” stories in other films. She’s unafraid to be judged by the audience; not looking for an alibi, simply guilty as charged as delivering one of the bravest turns of the year. It’s very exciting to see her take on a role like this feet first.
As one of our more standard character creations, Joe Anderson as Cody, Shiva’s boyfriend, is just mind-numbingly good. Anderson, who you may remember from films like “The Grey” and “Control,” harnesses the energy of a Ben Foster-type, in a vile role that simply stands out.
“Bleeding Heart” is a fascinating film, though a tad predictable. If nothing else, it recognizes the underappreciated work of Jessica Biel and Zosia Mamet, and places writer/director Diane Bell at the forefront of exciting indie filmmakers.
“Bleeding Heart” currently has no distributor.