How long does it take to recover from a breakup? How long does it take to convince someone you have just met that moving forward is possible? What do you need to feel you can do it?
Actually, not much – or at least that’s the answer the new short film by the Spanish filmmaker Ruben Navarro, Of Hearts and Castles, offers.
You just need one night, a connection, a sparkle, and a hug.
Of Hearts and Castles, premiered in the OutFest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival, tells the story of Marcus (Jonathan P. Chambers) and Angel (Luis Carazo). They meet one night outside a bar and spend together one night only, but that will be enough to change Marcus’s perspective on his future and his ability to overcome a past relationship he can’t stop thinking on.
The topic is a recurrent one in culture and can very easily fall into clichés. But Of Hearts and Castles is not edulcorated. It succeeds in the demanding genre of short films, with a well-crafted script, a delicate edition, and an impeccable job from the actors.
The director’s clarity on what to let us see and hear is what does the trick to save the film from being edulcorated. Everybody knows how it is to be heartbroken, and Navarro does not waste any time on that. Instead, we see how Angel rapidly creates a safe space for Marcus, where he rests for a night and understands he already owns that what he was searching for.
A second quality of the film is its edition. The music was carefully chosen and used, and the narrative resource of flashbacks help fill the story gaps while avoiding over-explanation.
Finally, Jonathan P. Chambers and Luis Carazo’s work feels natural: you feel the awkwardness, and breathe the sexual tension. Along with Angel, you understand that sometimes tenderness is more important than sex, and you can feel Marcus’ relief and rest in the flesh.
Of Hearts and Castles speaks to the audience in a broader sense: It is not a short film about a gay relationship or a film about interracial love – despite being starred by a Black American and a Latino. The bottom line is beyond that.
Regardless of your race or sex, you won’t be able to stop smiling, and feeling that love is love and kindness knows nothing other than smiling back.