[SXSW 2023] WITH LOVE AND A MAJOR ORGAN -- Flawed but Charming Indie Sci-Fi With a Great Concept
Review by Sean Boelman
Sci-fi and romantic comedy are two genres that go together extremely well, as the absurdity of modern romance tends to juxtapose wonderfully with a modern setting. With Love and a Major Organ manages to juggle its multiple genres in a way that is satisfying and entertaining, making this a satisfying debut for Kim Albright.
The film is set in an alternate world where people can rip out their own hearts, as a lonely woman gives her heart to the man she loves only for her to run away with it. Although the story doesn’t quite live up to the extraordinary promise of this premise, the execution is original enough that it is worth watching.
One of the movie’s biggest shortcomings is that it isn’t particularly funny. It’s certainly quirky and zany, but that feeling of silliness never translates into laughs. The film manages to stay intriguing nonetheless, because it has such a wacky concept and the world-building keeps up with it.
Writer Julia Lederer clearly has some interesting things to say about modern romance, she struggles to find the right balance between the commentary and the timelessness factor. Viewers will undeniably relate to the struggle of unreciprocated love, but this sometimes contrasts with the occasionally pessimistic tone.
The movie also struggles with its character development. Although a significant portion of the premise is that people in this world actively attempt to suppress their emotions, it’s hard to make a compelling film out of characters that feel cold and distant. Furthermore, the movie doesn’t go overboard with these elements enough to make it work on that level.
It doesn’t help that the two leads — Anna Maguire and Hamza Haq — don’t have particularly strong chemistry. That’s not to say that their performances are bad, with Maguire turning in a strong performance, and it’s clear that they are doing pretty much exactly what they are being asked to do. The fault, therefore, lies more in the hands of the director.
This year’s SXSW lineup seems to have quite a few low-fi sci-fi movies that stretch their budget to the max. Even though the concept of With Love and a Major Organ is pretty outlandish, Albright directs the film in a way that feels quite grounded. There are some visually fascinating sequences — many of which are the basis of great jokes — but it’s mostly very restrained.
With Love and a Major Organ deserves some major praise for its ambition, even if its swings don’t always pay off. The movie’s beating heart, if you will, is its originality and idiosyncrasy, and viewers that pick up on this will walk away feeling satisfied, if not particularly affected.
With Love and a Major Organ is screening at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival, which runs March 10-18 in Austin, TX.
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