An Italian family moves to London and opens a café, all goes well until the father loses everyhting on a lost bet.
Queen of Hearts' is a big film on a little set. Complete with a passionately swirling undercurrent of vendetta, Italian immigrant family life is here oddly infused with English whimsy. From a Tuscan beginning, the action buries itself in post-war Rotherhithe's Italian Quarter: a story as old as that of those star-crossed lovers, it's a tale of a broken engagement, resented and avenged after 20 years.
Told as fantasy, it's seen through the eyes of ten-year-old Eddie, played with wide-eyed charm by Ian Hawkes. As you might expect being thinking British Cinema, its appearance is stagey and has the look of an Ealing backlot - only missing Gracie Fields swinging round a lamppost on song - but it requires more than a scattering of 50s cars and pork pie hats to achieve a timeless visual blend.
'Queen of Hearts' slowly and deliberately chronicles the demise of a Joe's cafe society as the gambling patriach Danilo (Joseph Long) struggles with a fiery beauty of a wife, crabby mother-in-law, the arrival of his ageing Lothario of a father and his scornful young buck eldest who gains employment with the jilted lover, black-browed Barbariccia. Our lad watches all this passion with well-observed detachment, but this is ultimately a mishmash of a film that doesn't quite know what it wants to be.
A charming performance from Hawkes as out ten year old narrator, but the film unltimately loses itself in its own plot machinations.