Review: Hearts and Bones

STUDIO: Gravitas Ventures | DIRECTOR: Ben Lawrence | CAST: Hugo Weaving, Andrew Luri, Hayley McElhinney, Bolude Watson, Alan Dukes
RELEASE DATE: Nov. 20, 2020
SPECS: NR | 111 min. | Drama

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  

Australian writer-director Ben Lawrence (Ghosthunter) has whipped up a refreshingly original story with his first narrative feature, Heart and Bones.

The emotionally intelligent drama stars Hugo Weaving (Jasper Jones) as Daniel Fisher, a weary war photographer suffering from several health issues, including PTSD. Back home from his latest assignment and prepping for an exhibition of his most notable work, he learns his longtime girlfriend (Hayley McElhinney, The Babadook) is unexpectedly pregnant. Still reeling from an earlier family tragedy, the announcement induces additional anxiety rather than happiness.

Hugo Weaving and Andrew Luri in Hearts and Bones.

When news of Daniel’s upcoming show reaches Sebastian Aman (Andrew Luri in his film debut), a South Sudanese refugee who has created a safe life in Australia with his wife (Bolude Watson, Blue World Order) and child, he is fearful it will feature photographs of the massacre from his home village that killed his family 15 years earlier. Sebastian approaches Daniel under the guise of photographing his community choir but his true motive is to convince him not to include the painful photos, thus challenging Daniel’s creative control.

As Sebastian makes his appeal, the two men begin to bond, recognizing the respective traumas beneath their masculine exteriors. As the exhibit nears, disturbing details surrounding Sebastian’s past are unearthed, pushing Daniel’s anxiety even further and potentially threatening their newly formed friendship.

With Hearts and Bones, photographer and one-time TV commercial director Lawrence takes a solid step forward in his filmmaking career. His script is thoughtful and poignant, carefully touching on themes of loss and duty (though they still could have been more deeply explored). Lawrence took a chance when deciding to cast a non-actor who could bring his life experience to the role of Sebastian and did well in choosing Luri, himself a refuge whose name was put forward by a Sudanese-Australian community representative. Luri completely holds his own against Weaving who can be a formidable presence. Supporting turns by McElhinney and Watson are equally impressive.

Though it takes a little while for all the pieces to fall into place–and you might be able to guess in which direction the plot is going–Hearts and Bones is an affecting tale, the kind of which we need more of.

About Janine

Janine is a dedicated fan of the 1940 film Kitty Foyle, directed by Sam Wood, written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Ginger Rogers, who won an Oscar for her portrayal. And seeing that film is all it took to make her a lifelong movie lover. Janine is excited to add her insights to the great team at