Nightstream Capsule Review: My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Nightstream Fest brings audiences an intimate, emotional horror film, My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To. Making his feature-film debut as both writer and director, Jonathan Cuartas tells the story of three siblings. The youngest brother, Thomas, suffers from an illness, and his older brother, Dwight, and sister, Jessie, have taken on the burden of caring for him. The film is a tight, family drama with horrifying elements woven throughout. It gets to the heart of the lengths people are willing go to for family and the ones they love.

From start to finish the tone of My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is dark and ominous, even in the scenes where the family has a happy moment. The knowledge of Thomas’ illness and what his siblings have to do to keep him alive is a constant weight that even the audience can feel. This feeling is emphasized by the stunning performances by all three leads, Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous, Wristcutters: A Love Story), Ingrid Sophie Schram (Phantom Thread, Electric Slide), and Owen Campbell (Super Dark Times, The Miseducation of Cameron Post).

Not only does the film deliver a slow burn with strong emotional beats, but it also includes plenty of blood and some subtle yet gorgeous practical effects. This is mostly tied to Thomas and his mysterious illness that seems closely tied to vampirism. It’s a very unique take that keeps the film grounded in reality. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a haunting family drama that cuts deep.


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