Woah – My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Woah – My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To
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Woah – My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To, because, woah. The world of cinema is vast. Broad and very wide. There are films for children that make them giggle. There are movies that blow stuff up, and are exciting. Dramas that will break your heart, or lift your soul. Indie films that will surprise you. But today? Today, I bring you a movie that is so different – so utterly outside the realm of normal as to blow your mind. It’s a horror movie, but only in its heartbreaking-ness. It’s a thriller, only in its utter reality and grittiness. I’ve literally never seen a supernatural movie so real before. I’ve never seen a more real fantasy in my life. It truly is a heartbreaking wonder. A metaphor, a horror, a fantasy, and a triumph. Really unfathomable, really. Thanks have to go out to Nancy and Chris for finding this one… kudos you guys. Great catch!!

But I will say this. I’ve never witnessed a darker film than this one. Yes, there was a LOT of blood. But there was also just heartbreaking sadness too. And yet, it was all worth it. I can’t really say more about this movie without giving up the game. Watch it on Youtube, AppleTV, or Wherever. But whatever you do, watch, or don’t watch, don’t watch this trailer:

Woah – My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

I’ve already heard from two of you asking what the heck this movie is about. And if you just finished watching this film, and you are curious what the heck just happened… first, stop for a second and think about that title. Because, right there is your answer. It’s a long title – so you have a LOT to go on here. My heart. Can’t Beat. Unless… you tell it to. Hrmmm. My heart can’t beat…. unless you tell it to. MY HEART CAN’T BEAT UNLESS YOU TELL IT TO. Anything? Don’t worry, further down this page we’ll talk it through in detail.

Right out’the jump, this movie is dark. Yes, everything happens at night. So, it’s literally dark. But it’s also forebodingly dark. Just carries a weight of 20 elephants on its back. Why? What is happening here? The coloring is heavy. The lighting is heavy. The sets are heavily and oppressively heavy. The other day I brought you a movie called Night Drive… and guess what? That entire movie was shot during the course of one night, and it wasn’t dark at all. You know? (Actually had so much fun with that one I interviewed the writer and director Meghan Leon, check it out let me know what you think of it.) But this feels like it’s a movie that it is drowning under its own weight.

Oh sweet, Dwight is doing something nice!! He’s helping a homeless person! I was wrong about this being a heavy movie. It’s going to be all about this family that is sweet, and thinks of others first!!! Phew. Or not. Dwight (played by Patrick Fugit) offers a burrito to a homeless guy, and takes him to a shelter. Well, the shelter turns out to be his house. The loving kindness that I thought was about to happen ended at the butt-end of a baseball bat. And the homeless person’s blood being emptied into a vat. Wait, WHAT?!?

You see, as it turns out, Dwight’s brother, Thomas (played by Owen Campbell – who I adored in the movie Super Dark Times) is sick. Not sick with Covid sick, cough cough. But, well, you know – he’s vampire kind of sick. WAHT?!? Yes, Thomas requires blood to survive, and if he goes too long without it, he becomes deathly ill. And the other cue that this isn’t just a random dietary restriction, but rather that Thomas is literally a vampire, is that when he sees sunlight he immediately gets blistered, and burnt. It’s bad. Thomas is a very sickly vampire… and he requires the constant, and perpetual, and non-stop care of his brother Dwight, and his sister Jessie (Ingrid Sophie Schram – Phantom Thread) in order for him to survive.

Woah - My Heart Cant Beat Unless You Tell It To - because this is a hard movie to swallow, but totally worth it once it's figured out!

One of the rules of movie making is that we always see at least one normal routine for how things work, and then things start going south. With My Heart Can’t Beat, it is the murders. Dwight murders a homeless person and nothing really goes wrong. But how many murders were there before that murder? Hundreds? It was a lot. Why? Because in just the span of a few weeks we are watching we see a pile of people get murdered as they try to keep their brother alive. (Think about this for a minor second and the equation will blow your mind, Thomas’ life, sick, and on the couch, is worth hundreds of other people’s lives? Wait, what?)

Soon after, they are needing more blood, and Jessie is asking Dwight to get back out there and bring in more. It’s clear though, he’s not really a fan of this routine. Can’t imagine why. He has to murder someone in cold blood, regularly. That has to be really hard to do. Just thinking about the mechanics here. Not the morals. I mean, of course the morals. But, from a physics standpoint, it’s hard to get close enough to kill someone that won’t cause you problems. Whether just being loud, or fighting back, or just being missed. It’s got to be hard to do. It’s clear though that the wonder twin duo concentrate on the disenfranchised and the marginalized. The homeless and the prostitutes in town. (One way to keep shady people off the streets I guess! haha.)

Dwight picks up Eduardo – an individual we eventually learn, just recently arrived from Mexico. He doesn’t speak much English at all, and was hoping to connect with someone here in the States, but instead gets nabbed by Dwight. But Dwight arrives sans Eduardo, and instead comes home with a screwdriver still stuck in his leg. And when Jessie finds out, she takes off and heads straight for the local prostitute in town that she has been watching, and knows full well that Dwight has been seeing. She’s even pretty sure he’s considering leaving her and taking off with this woman, so killing her will serve to simultaneous purposes. A) It’ll provide blood for Thomas and B) it’ll dead end Dwight’s hopes of running away.

In order to tide Thomas over while Jessie is out getting blood, Dwight gives Thomas some of his own blood… but right away, Thomas knows that this is Dwight’s blood. Yeah, kind of creepy really.

Anyway, Jessie comes home with the prostitute. It was obviously a pretty brutal little fight as Pam, the prostitute is all cut up and Jessy had to work hard to save the blood. “I noticed this when she smiled” Jessie says as she is bloodletting Pam… and she pulls out Pam’s gold tooth. Now, I don’t know about you, but that is fairly messed up. Like, Nazi levels of messed up really. Dwight can’t cope though, seeing Pam dead is driving him crazy, and he leaves, and we are all but certain he’s never coming back. To see his sister ruthlessly butcher this woman he obviously loved? Are you kidding? Jessie is unhinged. Never mind that Dwight to has had his fair share run-ins with the the dead and the dying.

Ultimately Dwight can’t leave… his brother is weighing on him. There is no way that Jessie can keep him fed by herself. Oh, and there is one other thing weighing on him too. Hrm. What could that be? OH THAT’S RIGHT! EDUARDO IS IN A SHED OUT BACK! hahahah. Apparently, Dwight tussled with Eduardo, Eduardo stabbed him in the leg, but Dwight was able to tie him up and secure him in a shed in the backyard. So now they have Pam’s blood, and Eduardo, just stored and waiting. Dwight isn’t certain though he’s going to be able to off the guy. He’s feeding him and everything. Hrm. What’s going to happen next?

About this same time, Thomas is pretty determined to convince his siblings to let him go outside. They know this is a bad idea. So what does Thomas do? He throws his meal on the floor like a 3-year-old. “Do you have. ANY IDEA. What we go through to get that blood??!?” says Jessie. “Do you have any idea how stupid you are?!?” Regardless, Dwight takes Thomas outside that night… in the dark. But when they get back inside, all hell breaks loose when Dwight is attacked by Eduardo, who has apparently broken free. And after slitting Eduardo’s throat, Jessie finishes up, only to find Dwight completely unhinged… singing karaoke. The next day, Thomas, for a split second, opens the door and chucks a paper airplane outside. Thomas is nabbed almost immediately by his brother, and hauled back inside. And it’s a good thing too. WHY? Because 2 seconds in the sun blistered his arms terribly.

Jessie, ready to stock up for winter, heads into town, and asks a guy if he can help her with directions. “Do you mind getting in and showing me where to go?” hahaha. Helps that she is pretty. That trick wouldn’t work for me in the least!

Later on – that night? later that week? it isn’t clear – one of the kids that saw Thomas throw the plane comes to the door and checks on him, in the evening, in order to see if he’s okay. Thomas, ill-advisedly, invites him in. Now, think about this for a moment. At this point, Thomas is aware of where his “food” comes from, and how his siblings are getting it for him. You cannot tell me that Thomas is messing with this kid at this point. Anything other than that and I just don’t believe a word of it. His brother and sister are murderous lunatics. This much is really very clear. And sure, Dwight is showing signs of a conscience. Jessie on the other hand is murdering everyone she can get her hands on. Regardless, when Dwight sees what Thomas has done, he hides the kid in a closet to keep Jessy from seeing him… why? Well, because the kid is a goner if he doesn’t. But when she comes, the kid jumps out of the closet and stabs Jessie in the stomach. Jessie, worried that their story will be out, and the game will be up, tells Dwight to chase the kid down.

Woah - My Heart Cant Beat Unless You Tell It To - because this is a hard movie to swallow, but totally worth it once it's figured out!

The Ending of My Heart Cant Beat Unless You Tell It To Explained

This is where things get a little dicey. Dwight successfully chases down the kid – and he sits with him, and talks about how he understands what its like to be alone. (The kid lives with only his father.) And out of the kindness of his heart, he lets the kid go, Dwight is done with the blood. But when he comes back to the house, he finds Jessie is dead, and Thomas is sucking on her neck. Yeah, see, Dwight isn’t cool with that… so he takes Jessie’s body out of the room, and tosses another one of the dead people in the house into the room. Dwight buries his sister in the back yard, and drives away… he isn’t coming back. Dwight changes his mind though and comes back. And when he does, Thomas says he thought Dwight would never come back again. Then Thomas asks Dwight to open the window. And with that, Dwight does, and then heads off… leaving his sister and his brother behind him.

Random Interwebs Reader: “This has got to be the most confusing movie I’ve ever seen. It isn’t a vampire movie at all! What did I just watch?”

It would help you immensely if you understood that this movie isn’t a myth. It isn’t a story about legendary and mythological beasts. It isn’t a story about lore and Count Dracula. It’s actually a story about real world issues, real world problems facing many people today. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is 100% about hospice. It’s telling the story about family members that have a near lethal condition and are constantly on the verge of death. Without the help and support of a loved one, they would die fairly quickly.

Jonathan Cuartas – writer and director: “The story derives from an experience with my family, particularly in my dad’s side, an experience with hospice when my grandmother- my father’s mother, was in hospice and the way that different family members deal with a situation like this and at the end of the day, the film is about accepting the death of a loved one. When we were experiencing the situation in real life, my dad has nine siblings so there were a lot of personalities there and a lot of tension, but, at the same time, there’s love, because, you know, we’re still family and we share the same blood, so that’s kind of the thing that unifies us.”

The vampire analogy is perfect. It turns the idea of hospice on its head, and makes us think completely differently about the need our dying loved ones have. The love we have for them, and the fact that we would do absolutely anything for them. But also the unintentional demand it has on everyone within that ripple.

I loved this movie. It’s probably the most realistic horror movie I’ve ever seen. And this makes complete sense once you realize that it was based on reality… on real life experiences. It’s the vampire slice overlay that is the fake bit. But that is a very thin layer, once you think about it. Sure, it defines his condition… he needs blood, and can’t go anywhere near the sun. But the rest of the movie is about a family that is desperate to keep their brother alive. Treatments, food, medicine, life adjustments, living at night, not during the day. Their world is upside down and all they are doing is traipsing from one need to the next, one day to the next. And I see the difference between Dwight and Jessie as symptomatic of the different emotional states that family members can be in during the same journey. Sure, the movie paints it more as a moral quandary… but it is also endemic of some family members just being ready to let the loved one go while others are willing to give their own blood to keep them going. You know?

Man, this was a serious movie… really an intense flick that wasn’t for the faint of heart. I watched it like a week ago and I can’t get it out of my mind.

Edited by: CY