Heartless (2009 film)

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Heartless poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Philip Ridley
Produced by Pippa Cross
Richard Raymond
Written by Philip Ridley
Starring Jim Sturgess
Joseph Mawle
Noel Clarke
Clémence Poésy
Nikita Mistry
Timothy Spall
Music by David Julyan
Cinematography Matt Gray
Edited by Chris Gill
Paul Knight
Distributed by Lionsgate (UK)
IFC Films (US)
Release dates
  • 31 August 2009 (2009-08-31) (FrightFest)
  • 21 May 2010 (2010-05-21) (United Kingdom)
Running time
114 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Heartless is a 2009 British horror film directed by Philip Ridley and starring Jim Sturgess, Noel Clarke, Clémence Poésy and Eddie Marsan.


Jamie Morgan (Jim Sturgess) is a lonely, troubled photographer with a large heart-shaped birthmark that covers nearly half of his face. He is still a virgin at 25 because a lifetime of alienation and bullying have left him unable to make friends or attract women. At the photographic studio he shares with his brother and nephew Lee, he meets aspiring model Tia (Clémence Poésy).

A series of horrific murders by Molotov cocktail have been occurring in the neighborhood. Jaime is out doing night photography when he sees a gang of hooded vandals who appear to be wearing realistic reptile masks. Later a witness to one of the murders, a little Asian girl, tells a TV reporter that they weren’t wearing masks; the demonic faces were real.

Jaime and his mother are walking in the neighborhood when they are attacked by the demonic gang. His mother is immolated while Jaime watches helplessly, and he is savagely beaten and left for dead. In despair, he finds his way to the apartment of Papa B (Joseph Mawle) and his assistant Belle (Nikita Mistry), who looks just like the little Asian girl from the TV report. Papa B offers a Faustian bargain: Jaime must fulfill Papa B's desire for chaos with occasional acts of vandalism in return for the removal of his birthmarks. Despite his suspicion that Papa B may be responsible for his mother's death, Jamie consents and they shake hands. Papa B throws gasoline on Jaime & ignites him as a human torch. Jaime miraculously survives and peels away his burned skin to reveal perfect, unblemished skin.

Initially things go well: a chance meeting with Tia leads a newly confident Jamie to the park, where his beloved, deceased father first taught him to use a camera. The deal sours, however, when the Weapons Man arrives: Papa B has reneged on their bargain and Jamie must now commit murder by ripping the heart from a living victim. The Weapons Man tortures Jaime until he agrees to kill a street hustler. His hope for a better life returns after he and Tia become lovers. But later Papa B demands that he kill Tia as well.

At the studio, it is revealed that Tia and Lee (Luke Treadaway) intended to steal his late mother's jewelry. Tia had initially meant only to help Lee gain access to the safe, but she ended up sincerely falling in love with Jamie. During the ensuing struggle Tia is accidentally shot and killed, and Lee is seriously wounded by "She", a gang leader to whom he owed money.

Jamie is pursued by She but he fights back, resulting in her death. Jamie spies himself in a mirror and sees that his birthmark has returned, and with it the knowledge that it had been there the entire time, even while he was courting Tia. Jamie confronts Papa B's minions and fights them off, but then is faced with a larger demon, Papa B in his true form. Viewers are left to decide for themselves whether Papa B cheated Jamie by never removing the birthmark, or if much of what transpired was the product of Jamie's imagination.

Jamie staggers outside where a hooded gang member catches him with a Molotov cocktail. As he burns to death, Jamie experiences a vision of his father, who tells him that you can only see the stars in the blackness of the night. Whether this is a memory or a near-death experience is left unclear. Jaime ascend into bright light. The light fades into a field of stars in the night sky, mirroring the words spoken by his father.



The film was shown as part of the 2009 Cork Film Festival.[1] It premiered on 21 May 2010[2] and was released on DVD on 25 May 2010 in the UK.[3] Heartless is part of the Fantasia Festival 2010.[4]


Reviews for the film have been generally positive. The film currently holds a 75% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.


  1. ^ "Heartless - Corona Cork Film Festival". www.corkfilmfest.org. 7 November 2009. 
  2. ^ "Exclusive Heartless Featurette Learn about Jim Sturgess & demons". Empire Online. 15 April 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  3. ^ "FanTasia '10: A Bajillion New Posters For 'Heartless'". Dread Central. Retrieved 7 July 2010. 
  4. ^ "Fantasia 2010: Two New Heartless One-Sheets". Dread Central. 7 July 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2010. 

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