Map of the Human Heart Review

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Childhood friends, Avik (Lee) and Albertine (Parillaud) are separated by the arrival of WWII. Several years later, they happen to meet again in a Air Base where they have both been assigned and Avik realises he feels more than just friendship.


Vincent Ward's poignant vision of life and love in the uniquely charted world of Jason Scott Lee's half-lnuit hero, Avik, deserved greater things than it actually achieved on its theatrical release, when the sheer breadth and beauty of the tale could best be appreciated. Disappointingly, though perhaps inevitably, the film seems vastly diminished on its transfer to video.

Plotting a life circumscribed by cultural confusion and unrequited love, the story sweeps the young Avik away from a bleak Arctic childhood when a visiting map-maker called Walter (Bergin) recognises the boy's tuberculosis and drops him off in Montreal for the cure, a horror show experience lightened only by the presence of Albertine, another abandoned outcast with whom Avik forms the lifetime bond at the very heart of Ward's film — a bond stretched by time, the perils of World War II, the loneliness of living life as a people apart, and the tears and hitches of fate's little surprises.

In retrospect, it seems extraordinary just how well Ward pulls off such an unlikely tale, contriving in its most unfeasible moment a reunion, years later, between the adult Avik and the lovely Albertine (Parillaud) — he an RAF bomber flying raids on Germany, she working for the WRAP, analysing the very aerial photographs taken by his squadron — of such Casablanca-style proportions that a quote along the lines of, "Of all the RAF stations in all the world, you had to walk into mine" wouldn't have gone amiss.

Carried along by the gloriously grand romance of the thing, the compelling central performance of Scott Lee, in particular, and the sort of all-embracing photography that makes you melt, such minor gripes seem trivial. In the end, however, where sweeping over the details of a lifetime with big, bold strokes seemed sufficient for the big screen, here on video they seem too broad and too shallow a device to really hold the imagination.

Scott Lee gives a surprisingly strong performance as the Inuit who falls in unrequited love with Albertine. If you can overcome the ,almost too coincidental, fact that they are assigned to the same Air base several years later allowing them to be together again then this pleasing romantic drama could just be for you.