“Saverio Costanzo is the Italian filmmaker whose 2006 movie In Memory of Me, about a student training for the priesthood in Venice, seemed to me initially intriguing but finally frustrating, and I have to say something similar applies to his latest film, in competition here at Venice,” begins the Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw. “It is set in New York—unsentimentally stripped of all the usual glamor and sentimental charm—and the story is a painful and frightening one, about post-natal depression and psychological breakdown. There are valuable things in this film, and intelligent performances from its leads, Adam Driver and Alba Rohrwacher. But it is finally marred by a jarring and crassly misjudged melodramatic finale—which is a terrible return on our emotional investment in the drama.”
Hungry Hearts “may be cinema’s greatest gift to the contraception industry since We Need to Talk About Kevin,” suggests the Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin. “This is a gripping and tremblingly highly strung psychological drama, wreathed in a strong whiff of Rosemary’s Baby, in which the anxious days of early parenthood become a churn of mounting paranoia and dread. Bad decisions are made with the best intentions, and a mother’s love is as toxic as arsenic.” The film’s “a terrific showcase for Rohrwacher, who’s spectrally unnerving (she also starred in The Wonders, one of the best films at Cannes this year). The same goes for Driver, who finds dark corners in his generally supportive, well-meaning character.”
Variety‘s Jay Weissberg: “In the tiny basement bathroom of a Chinese restaurant, Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) gets trapped with stranger Jude (Adam Driver) when the door sticks shut. The topnotch actors make the most of their amusing dialogue in this nifty, claustrophobically lensed scene, which could easily work as a standalone shot…. Fabio Cianchetti’s controlled, intense closeups match the couple’s courtship and ‘us against the world’ attitude that excludes all else around them.”
“Costanzo clearly has a thing for horror-romance,” writes Deborah Young in the Hollywood Reporter. “Following his 2010 The Solitude of Prime Numbers, a psychological drama about two damaged souls who connect, comes an even weirder love story… but something is missing. Something like credibility.” Following the birth of their son, “Mina’s frail psychology goes into lunatic mode. Believing the little creature must be protected from contamination and impurity at all costs, she bans cell phones and street shoes from the apartment. Jude loyally hangs in with her on having a ‘natural’ childbirth in a little swimming pool in the hospital, but when she refuses to feed the baby anything but vegan food, it fails to grow. Jude and his mother are forced to team up and take desperate action in the last part of the film, played out as a clumsy thriller.”
Screen‘s Dan Fainaru agrees: “From the light-hearted humor of the early scenes, the plot shifts gears into a grim dysfunctional family drama, ending in an arbitrary shock that suggests the script had worked itself into the kind of knot that it is no longer capable to untie.”
Two out of five stars from John Bleasdale at CineVue: “Although there is certainly tension at moments and Driver once more proves himself an actor of great promise, Hungry Hearts falls between two baby chairs—neither satisfying as a thriller nor convincing as a drama.”
Updates, 9/4: Hungry Hearts “adopts a heavy-handed approach to explore a plausible issue and turns it into an implausible and ridiculous film,” writes Celluloid Liberation Front for Cinema Scope. “Is the director’s idea of psychological introspection really fish-eye lensing? Is having watched Rosemary’s Baby four times in high school a good enough excuse to make a movie?”
“It goes to extreme—some might say absurd—levels of insistence, distrust, hurt and anger, building to a climax that… feels a little too writerly, a little forced, and quite unnecessary,” finds Tom Christie at Thompson on Hollywood.