With Love and a Major Organ
SXSW Film Festival Visions Section
Reviewed for FilmFactual.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Kim Albright
Writer: Julia Lederer
Cast: Anna Maguire, Hamza Haq, Veena Sood, Donna Benedicto, Lynda Boyd, Arghavan Jenati, Enid-Raye Adams, Kerën Burkett, Ryan Beil, Laara Sadiq
Screened at: Critics’ link, Los Angeles, CA, 3/2/23
Opens: March 12th, 2023 (World Premiere)
Life might be a lot easier if there was a switch people could just turn off to rid themselves of emotions. But since things don’t work that way, it’s often hard to understand the nuances of how humans react to situations and what things would really be like if emotions weren’t part of the equation. With Love and a Major Organ imagines such a world, where people can indeed remove their hearts and the consequences of that action turn out to be quite interesting.
Anabel (Anna Maguire) hears a man crying out in pain and witnesses him remove a glowing purple heart from his chest, toss it into the water, and then expressionlessly ask his phone to provide him directions home. Anabel, who sells virtual insurance, becomes entranced by the idea of getting to know George (Hamza Haq) and giving him her heart, which serves to change their dynamic in unexpected and troubling ways, and which alarms George’s mother Mona (Veena Sood) as she sees how her previously consistent son is beginning to slip away from her.
This film’s concept is a fascinating one, externalizing something that is exclusively internal in real life. It’s remarkable to watch the shift in behavior as people dismiss their emotions as a whole, and the destructive path that can create for someone who hasn’t done it and can still feel. In a therapy session, Anabel learns that she is her doctor’s last client since the entire industry is being phased out, leaving her with numerous unanswered questions and serving only to perpetuate the idea that there is something wrong with her that cannot be fixed.
With Love and a Major Organ smartly spends no time trying to theorize how its incredible world could exist and instead just inserts its protagonist directly into it. Fascinating scenes follow, including one where Anabel attempts to subvert plans for a party that has been meticulously designed by an artificial intelligence that purports to know people better than any person can, and her inclusion of nostalgic snack food is chastised by the friend who seeks only to impress the people she met through that same program, primed for friendship based on hitting certain metrics. Anabel is trying to do good, but she’s no match for instantaneous data analysis, even if she has known her best friend for years.
The magic of this film comes from the human element which makes the machines and the predictability of events all the less reliable and stringent. There’s also a wondrous spunk in Maguire’s performance, playing someone who talks more than she should and rarely succeeds at reading the room. Once Anabel loses her heart, she begins to fit in more with those around her, but that shift is unnerving, and indicative of how individuality is important and should be emphasized and celebrated rather than stifled and suppressed. With Love and a Major Organ has plenty to say about the meaning of life and the value of human connection, shrewdly using its science fiction concept to tell a deeply relatable and poignant story.