With her parents away for the summer holidays, Emma (Jordanne Jones) is intent on striking out on her own from her twin sister and tries to set up a band. When a next-door neighbour Dan (Moe Dunford) arrives back to look after his elderly mother, the two strike up an unlikely friendship.
There is one way to sum up ‘Metal Heart’ and that is peak normie culture. Like a teacher flipping a chair backwards and sitting down, it says “Hey kids, there is nothing wrong with being weird, as long as you are not too weird. Have you ever heard of Ed Sheeran? He is pretty cool. You know who else was cool, a certain man called President Reagan. Anyway, don’t do drugs”.
Let’s get the good out of the way first, the cast is great. They give it their all and really keep the film afloat. They all imbue their characters with a sense of strength and vulnerability that really makes them stand out. Aaron Heffernan plays a delightfully dopey lad that keeps the laugh count up. Moe Dunford’s down and out neighbour is pitched perfectly between likeable and punchable. The real star is Jordanne Jones as she really carries the whole film along.
The cast portray complex characters and there is a good amount of tension as they negotiate their wants and needs. Unfortunately they are 3D characters in a 2D landscape, so their extra dimension goes to waste.
Emma starts off as a goth which we are meant to believe is a shocking state of affairs in 2019. But worry not, as she gets into indie music she tones it down, so when the credits role she can now walk among polite society. Because we all know that being a goth is just an affection for silly teenagers and not, say, a worldwide subculture.
There is a subplot where two of the characters are trying to find a flat to rent for their band practice, and we are led to believe they can afford this both working minimum wage part-time jobs. Considering that it is set in Dublin as we are facing a housing crisis it signals that the filmmakers are not interested in social realism. It aims for the John Hughes style “coming of age” tale and the flippancy that entails.
Although there are a few laughs, most of them fall flat. This is largely due to the timing. There is a joke early on that has a fairly dark setup but fails to allow any real tension to rise that would let the joke work. It chickens out on a touchy subject matter making you wonder why the joke is there in the first place. It just feels that those behind the camera lack passion and drive to make the gags land.
I’m not claiming to be an expert in what teenagers are into these days but I’m damn sure a film about petty bourgeois predicaments is not going to resonate with the majority of its intended audience. While at times this is a charming and fun directorial debut from Hugh O'Connor, it just feels too safe, too linked to the past for it to achieve its aims.