After their debut feature "Boyfriends" in 1996, writer-director partnership Tom Hunsinger and Neil Hunter return with a far more mature and impressive film about the ties that bind us to one another.
While "Boyfriends" took a light-hearted look at three gay couples spending a weekend in the countryside, "The Lawless Heart" begins with the funeral of Stuart (David Coffey), which forces its principal characters to reassess what they want out of life.
Stuart's unexpected death leaves boyfriend Nick (Hollander), father Dan (Nighy), and friend Tim (Henshall) suddenly aware of the need to seize life by the throat.
Told from each of their perspectives, "The Lawless Heart" charts their awkward attempts to do exactly that, working out their relationships with one another and themselves.
As set-ups go, this hardly sounds like the most riveting of dramas. Yet, "The Lawless Heart" instantly grabs your attention through the doleful performance of Bill Nighy, whose mid-life crisis story opens the narrative. "I once faked a broken heart, but I ran out of energy," this downtrodden barroom philosopher says, before launching into a hesitant attempt at an extra-marital affair.
Switching gear, the film then moves on to the stories of Nick and Tim, with all three threads crossing paths at various moments. In terms of plotting, this is clever-clever stuff. Yet what really stands out is how these segments are so impeccably crafted.
While Nighy's performance is the one that really stands out - so much so that you wish he had more than just a third of the film devoted to him - Henshall and Hollander effortlessly pull off the script's insistence upon walking along the thin line that divides the tragic from the comic.
It's a beautiful, moving mini-masterpiece that's a strong contender for the British film of the year.