A bittersweet tale of misfiring friendship and hapless love, The Lawless Heart is closer in spirit to the celluloid output of mainland Europe than traditional English dramedies.
It deals with how a disparate group of people come to terms with a friend's death, unfurling their overlapping stories from three different points-of-view. The key players are the married Dan (Bill Nighy), gay Nick (Tom Hollander) and globetrotting Tim (Douglas Henshall). All they have in common is Stuart, who's just died in a boating accident. Their reactions to this loss are very different: Dan dallies with the idea of having an affair; Nick, Stuart's boyfriend, seeks solace from an unexpected source; and Tim suddenly feels an urge to settle down - meaning he first needs to find a suitable girl...
Think of how Pulp Fiction dips when Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta are off-screen, and it'll come as no surprise that one of The Lawless Heart's strengths - the three-part structure - is also one of its weakness. For while the perspective switching shakes things up and keeps events fresh, it also forces the abandonment of characters just as you grow to like them. Nighy, in particular, is sorely missed, having kicked the film off in fantastically funny form ("I once faked a broken heart, but ran out of energy").
But writing-directing team Tom Hunsinger and Neil Hunter offer plenty by way of compensation. Their likeable second movie (after 1996's Boyfriends) exhibits a refreshing lack of pretension and benefits from its novel setting in the Essex countryside, while the watertight script is bulging with amusing observations. Well worth a look.