There’s a profound difference in how romance is portrayed from the male and female perspective in film. Often we see romantic stories skewed to be both from and for a woman’s perspective in “chick flicks,” and occasionally we see a romantic relationship from a man’s perspective in a comedy, but it tends to be a secondary plot device, or a superficial look at the relationship at best. It’s rare to see a more thoughtful portrayal of love from a male perspective, which is what makes Rocky Powell’s Language of a Broken Heart so unique.
The story is told from the perspective of Nick (Juddy Talt; also the film’s screenwriter), an author who writes romantic books that make his female readers fall in love with the idea of him, but he struggles with the actual act of being in love.
Through Nick’s narration, we learn about his various failed relationships, from 3rd grade to present day. Nick’s most recent girlfriend, Violet (Lara Pulver), dumped him because she was “bored,” and Nick wants more than anything to win her back.
But, with the somewhat misguided advice of his therapist (Oscar Nunez), Nick instead returns to his hometown to reassess his approach to relationships and life in general. Back at home, a luggage mishap leads Nick to Emma (Kate French), a strange and spontaneous bookstore owner who catches him off guard. Emma is exactly the opposite of Violet, which might be just what Nick needs in order to move on.
Language of a Broken Heart may not be a story you’ve never heard before, but Nick’s unique perspective puts a different spin on a familiar concept. Nick is a nice guy with good intentions. He is repeatedly told throughout the film that he would make his life easier if he just learned not to like everyone so much. In one particularly entertaining scene, Emma challenges Nick to list things he doesn’t like about his ex, and he humorously struggles to think of anything substantial.
It’s that inherent kindness that makes it easy to root for Nick, and to empathize with the people in his life who have his best interests at heart. His mother, played by Julie White, is particularly lovely as Nick’s well-intentioned and oft-naked ally, as is Ethan Cohn as Nick’s childhood friend Cubbie. Talt himself has a bit of an awkward nice guy vibe about him all the time; he reminded me a bit of Jason Lee with his portrayal of the sarcastic-but-sensitive leading man.
The cinematography and soundtrack in Language of a Broken Heart are both lovely – the film seems to jump off the screen with its vivid colors and imaginative shots, and the quiet indie rock that accompanies most of the movie may be expected, but it works perfectly with the tone of the story. My biggest conundrum with the movie was pacing, as the plot would occasionally stall to accommodate a few rounds of contemplative dialogue.
Language of a Broken Heart is an interesting combination of quiet indie movie sensibilities with a slick commercial look and feel. I never felt like I was watching a standard Hollywood romantic comedy, but the tone is much less dire than I’ve become accustomed to seeing in indie films, even ones that are intended to be romantic or funny. In fact, because of that lack of clear categorization, Language of a Broken Heart may be a bit of a niche film. But the viewers who can appreciate this juxtaposition of genre will likely be quite taken with this film’s personality and charm.