Heartstone is now available to rent or buy.
At what age does the freedom and innocence of childhood become consumed by the mists of adolescence? The answer, of course, differs for every person; the journey to adulthood, a voyage of personal self-discovery. However, no matter the age, it can be jarring and uncomfortable as the reality of adult life, sex, and relationships take hold. Of course, these themes have long been central to the coming-of-age genre while equally finding a voice in LGBTQ coming-out dramas. However, few films capture the complexity and ferociousness of the emotions and feelings attached to this journey, like Heartstone (Hjartasteinn).
In a small Icelandic fishing village, Thor (Baldur Einarsson) and Kristján (Blær Hinriksson) spend their days playing together. However, their shared childhood journey is slowly reaching its end as teenage feelings take hold in an isolated coastal community where everyone knows each other’s business. Here, both boys find brief moments of escape within the small town’s mountains, fields, junkyards, and pools. But the visual beauty of the rugged cliffs and peaks is also a claustrophobic nightmare for teenagers attempting to find their independence and identity. Thor finds this even more challenging as his physical development sits in the shadow of Kristján’s burgeoning manliness. Here Thor’s older sisters delight in taunts and jokes at his lack of growth while at the same time questioning his close friendship with Kristján.
As the constraints of school vanish during Iceland’s long summer days, both Thor and Kristján engage in a series of clumsy attempts at romance with two local girls. Here their insecurities are kept at bay by their protection of each other as they question everything around them. But as Thor falls for one of the girls, Kristján hides his true feelings in fear of isolation. However, as summer turns to autumn, then winter, the last faint glows of childhood vanish as Thor and Kristján tentatively take their first steps into adult life.
Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s film takes clear inspiration from Roy Andersson’s A Swedish Love Story (1970). Guðmundsson weaves the brutal realities of early teenage life with themes of community, family, conflict, and isolation. Here the town bullies haunt the local cafe where young people meet, and families ignore the changes around them. Just like A Swedish Love Story, Heartstone captures the reality of the emotions, fears, and joys of early adolescence while never dismissing the turbulence and conflict of change. Here the bodies of our two young men demand attention. At the same time, their minds remain caught in the void between childhood innocence and adult responsibility in an ocean of hormonal excitement and fear.
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However, it is on top of this complex and rich exploration of early adolescence that Heartstone beautifully explores the differing experiences of both boys emerging sexuality. Here the sublime performances of both Baldur Einarsson and Blær Hinriksson wrap us in a realism rarely captured in either the coming-of-age genre or the coming-out drama. Here the slow emergence from the chrysalis of boyhood for both boys is exquisite in its detail—the first finding his wings while the other struggles to take flight under a cloud of confusion and shame. Guðmundsson’ movie reflects the urgency and excitement of early sexual exploration in a caged community, the role of the community directly affecting the ability of both boys to grow and develop.