Reviewer's Rating 4 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
Heartlands (2003)

You can drive across mainland Britain in a few hours, so it's hardly surprising British road movies are as scarce as services on the M25. There have been a few, though - eg "Soft Top Hard Shoulder", "Last Orders", "Butterfly Kiss" - and to that select group we can now add the second feature from "East is East" director Damien O'Donnell.

Colin (Michael Sheen) is every inch a loser. Hopelessly devoted to his cheating wife Sandra (Jane Robbins), he spends his days behind the counter of his shabby Midlands corner shop and his nights playing darts down the local boozer.

Throw in the worst bubble perm since Kevin Keegan played for England, and it's no wonder Sandra runs off to Blackpool with Geoff (Jim Carter), the captain of Colin's darts team.

Intent on winning her back, Colin mounts his trusty moped and sets off in hot pursuit. But his eventful journey - and the friends he makes en route - have a transforming effect on this unlikely hero, who comes to realise that the life he's led hasn't been much of a life at all.

Written by Shane Meadows' regular collaborator Paul Fraser, O'Donnell's film employs the same mix of bittersweet pathos, ribald humour, and broad working-class caricature as "Once Upon a Time in the Midlands".

"Heartlands", though, has the added virtue of Alwin Kuchler's elegant photography, which deftly captures the exquisite beauty of England's rolling countryside (the Peak District).

Add plaintive folk songs from Kate Rusby and an Eric Bristow cameo, and the result is a gentle, heart-warming gem.

End Credits

Director: Damien O'Donnell

Writer: Paul Fraser

Stars: Michael Sheen, Mark Addy, Jane Robbins, Jim Carter, Celia Imrie, Mark Strong

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Length: 91 minutes

Cinema: 02 May 2003

Country: UK/USA

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