American Heart Review

Image for American Heart

Jack Kelson completes his stint in jail and leaves a broken man. He plans to travel across his America but his son comes to find him and adamantly sticks by his side. Kelson then goes to find his ex-girlfriend who is not only unaware he has a son, but even that he's coming to see her.


This movie could be glibly described as Jeff Bridges Goes Grunge. The initial scenes see him getting out of the slammer, ruined and wasted, shaking his wild mane in a Gents mirror before boarding a bus to Seattle. He could be auditioning for a Nirvana video, but is, in fact, playing a character, Jack Kelson, whose name hints at the romantic longings (Jack Kerouac meets Jack London) which dominate this movie.

Kelson is one of those epic American drifters who wants to chase his dream all the way out into the wilderness (Alaska is the sign­post here), but who has to settle for what he can get: a job as a window-cleaner in Seattle's forest of high-rises. Jack is joined on the bus by an initially unwelcome companion, his young son Nick (Furlong), who has hiked out from the family farm to join him in an effort to play happy families. Kelson has other things on his mind. There is his old prison pen pal, for a start, a lady cab driver (Jenney) who is unprepared for the fact that her dream lover has extra emotional baggage. Jack and Nick end up sharing a rented room in a low-life dive as they try to sort themselves out, and the comic role reversals which the pair kick around are well-worn but effective.

The movie comes unstuck when director Bell tries to turn unforced anecdote into social statement — this is particularly true of the extensive episodes featuring Nick sliding into a life of petty crime and corruption. The last third of the movie, meanwhile, skids into melodrama with Jack chasing after his son with a surprise bad guy hot on his heels waving a gun. It could have been rather more honest, but it's still worth watching for Bridges' sensitive performance.

Although Jack moves across America somehow the character development gets left behind and for a road trip movie to have a stagnant narrative is not a good sign. Father and son do manage to bond on a new level but there's little sub-plot to keep your interest.