Film review – My Feral Heart (Jane Gull, 2016)

Last night 36 cinemas in the U.K. played host to screenings of My Feral Heart as part of World Down Syndrome Day. The many 100s in attendance were treated to a moving portrayal of coping with loss and the difficulties of abrupt changes in circumstances that people with Down syndrome are sometimes forced to cope with.

Star Steven Brandon plays Luke, a young man with Down syndrome who is coming to terms with the death of his mother. Moved to a nearby care home, he must forge new relationships with the carer at the home Eve (Shana Swash) and a man working nearby on community service called Pete (Will Rastal). After leaving the home to explore the surrounding areas he is comes across a girl in need of help, a task that brings Luke new purpose.

The performance by the lead actor Brandon is extremely moving. This is a complex role that he clearly gave a lot of emotion to. He is a heartbroken son living alongside people he doesn’t feel any connection towards and also feeling robbed of his independence. 

There’s a clear comradery between the three lead characters and it’s in these scenes you feel the charm of the humour. It feels natural when Pete laughs at Luke for thinking babies “come from China”, before a big infectious smile appears on Luke’s face. Without this chemistry the film could have fallen down, but praise must also go to director Jane Gull for cultivating and capturing this on film.

The performances are complimented by a wonderfully-orchestrated soundtrack by Barrington Pheloung, who has been crafting high quality film and television scores for almost thirty years.

The ultimate ideal is that people will view this film and change their underlying feelings about Down syndrome, either through the effect of the story or due to the brilliant performance from Brandon. The rhetoric surrounding World Down Syndrome Day is that those living with the condition don’t have special needs, but human needs. They don’t have to be treated completely differently to anyone else. Though the message is precisely this in My Feral Heart, the film itself serves as evidence enough of a great acting achievement by a bright young actor with Down syndrome.

It is heartwarming and completely moving, and it’s something that really deserves to be seen.

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