Judge Dennis Prince was once smitten by a stranger's eyes at the bus station. He found them in an unattended ice cooler.
"Our hearts have known each other for years."
Callie Morgan (Samantha Mathis, Local Color) is very ill and desperately in need of a heart transplant. She relocates to University Central Hospital where she makes her new home in the heart transplant ward, uncomfortable and unbelieving of the hi-jinks of the others around her. Most egregious in his antics is the seemingly smarmy Jasper (Peter Dobson, Freezerburn). Although he's a bit crass in his humor, Jasper has his heart in the right place—to cheer up and cheer on Callie. Ultimately, Callie and Jasper both receive new hearts and recover well. Smitten by Callie, Jasper pursues his romantic interests in the woman after they are discharged from the hospital. Callie rejects his honorable advancements until she learns that both of them received the hearts of a couple killed in an auto accident, their surviving daughter living nearby. Now the two of them must decide if they should resist contact with the young girl—as mandated by the transplant organization—or "follow their hearts" to their mutual fulfillment.
OK, so there's just something not right in releasing a film like A Stranger's Heart just in time for Valentine's Day. Couple this with the recent reports of harvested kidneys, those taken from detained and drugged Indian laborers, and this whole notion of "romance among transplants" hits the floor with a profound squish. To call this film "heartwarming" or occasionally "heart-wrenching" goes beyond droll humor; it just seems wrong. Oh, this isn't to say the movie fails to elicit a smile at all the right moments or tempt a tear on its few downbeat notes; it does this with an intentional kindness. Even so, the constant reminder that this unlikely couple is powered by the hearts of an unfortunate twosome works to separate you and I from a fulfilling emotional experience, the sort the film aspires to. As Callie and Jasper speak of their hearts as, well, hearts, we feel we're voyeurs peeking into the lives of people previously featured on a cable TV surgery program, their flesh stretched back, ribs ratcheted open, as a new vital organ is situated and sutured into place. It's a bit unsettling, really, and mental pictures of graphic surgery perpetually spring to mind while viewing this drama. When you add the rather stiff acting and cardboard dialog, the whole affair seems like a clumsy reenactment.
On DVD, A Stranger's Heart looks pretty good. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is clean and clear but does maintain that sort of romantic softness that betrays its made-for-cable-television origins. The audio is suitable, presented in a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix. There are no extras on the disc (not even an operating room gag reel).
Although they pride themselves for "sending the very best," this film from Hallmark (aired on the Hallmark channel) just doesn't pink up well enough for this court's tastes. It's doubtful that even the most sentimental among us would dab away a tear while watching this one.
Not guilty but never quite innocent of exploiting the organ transplant profession. Weird.
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