An assured debut feature from documentarian Ben Lawrence, Hearts and Bones is an intimate morality play that questions the culpability of wartime photographers who capture “misery porn” while focusing on the devastating effect that the images can have on those involved on both sides of the camera. As photographer Daniel Fisher, Hugo Weaving exudes a dishevelled machismo a million miles from the sharp-suited snide of his Matrix bad guy Agent Smith. He is a man all but destroyed by what his unflinching lens has captured and paying the price as he prepares to exhibit his life’s work. Fisher strikes up a friendship with Sebastian Ahmed (impressive newcomer Andrew Luri), a South Sudanese refugee who contacts the photographer after hearing that the exhibition may include images of a massacre in his village 15 years ago. As their lives become entangled, both men must face the truth about the events that led to the fateful images.
While the two leads are given every opportunity to impress, it’s the ensemble behind them who give proceedings heart and soul: Hayley McElhinney as Fisher’s long-suffering partner, Bolude Watson as Ahmed’s pregnant wife Anishka, and the troop of inexperienced actors playing the refugee community. And for a film that tackles such emotive subjects as the global refugee problem, post-traumatic stress disorder and the death of a child, the sense of comradeship they supply is much needed. The tear-jerking conclusion may be unlikely, but when a stunning a capella rendition of Talking Heads’ 'Road to Nowhere' fills the soundtrack, few will remain unmoved. David Michael Brown