Although it's called "Heartless" (for several key reasons including an especially gruesome one), this compelling psychological horror-thriller contains a tremendous amount of heart. That would be largely thanks to a moving and deeply sensitive lead performance by Jim Sturgess ("Across the Universe," "21") as Jamie, a shy East Londoner disfigured by wine-colored birthmarks and haunted by the decade-old death of his beloved father ( Timothy Spall), who lands on a nightmarish collision course with demonic forces.
Sturgess deftly runs the gamut of physical and emotional states here as he tries to make sense of a world gone somewhat mad. Whether facing off against the satanic "patron saint of random violence" (Joseph Mawle), who lures Jamie into a devil of a deal; blossoming around new love interest Tia (Clémence Poésy); quietly relating to his compassionate mother (Ruth Sheen); or awkwardly bar-hopping with a friendly new neighbor (Noel Clarke), the actor maintains a terrifically watchable presence.
Writer-director Philip Ridley, an infrequent filmmaker most notable for his 1990 cult thriller, "The Reflecting Skin," has crafted a highly imaginative if often darkly disturbing work that even at its most seemingly outlandish remains intriguing and involving.
The film is also filled with many visually provocative moments as well as an impressive soundtrack of original songs by Ridley and longtime musical collaborator Nick Bicat.
"Heartless." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.