True Heart Review

Gary Couzens has reviewed True Heart, a bland family adventure about a brother and sister lost in the Canadian wilderness. This minor entry in the then fifteen-year-old Kirsten Dunst’s filmography becomes a typical MGM back-catalogue disc.

A plane crashlands in the Canadian wilderness. The pilot dies, but Bonnie (Kirsten Dunst) and her brother Sam (Zachery Ty Bryan) survive. Their only hope for survival is a native, Khonanesta (August Schellenberg). But there are bears in the woods, and that also means poachers…

True Heart is a capable adventure story for all the family, though rather a bland one: it displays more competence than flair. It’s all impeccably and commendably eco-friendly but is somehow hard to get excited about. Writer-director Catherine Cyran began her career in the exploitation arena, with script credits on Slumber Party Massacre III and Bloodfist II amongst others. As a director, she’s worked often on television. True Heart seems to have been made for the big screen (although it went straight to video in the UK), but it has the air of a TV movie about it.

Of the two young leads, it’s not hard to see which of them would go on to stardom and which wouldn’t. Although this is hardly her greatest role, Kirsten Dunst has a screen presence that entirely overshadows her screen brother Zachery Ty Bryan, though that may have something to do with a female writer-director doing a better job of writing her character than his. (That’s not so much a complaint, considering how often the opposite happens.) August Schellenberg invests the role of Khonanesta, the “True Heart” of the title, with some gravitas. On the way there’s a very well-trained Kodiak bear amongst other wildlife and some decently staged action sequences. The Canadian scenery is well captured in Christopher Baffa’s camerawork. There’s not much wrong with True Heart, but it simply lacks much of a spark to lift it above the routine.

True Heart is presented on DVD in its original ratio of 1.85:1, anamorphically enhanced. Visually, the transfer is colourful if a little softer than it should be. Blacks are good and shadow detail fine.

The soundtrack is a surround-encoded Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, in the original English or in French and Spanish dubs. The surrounds tend to be used for music and the occasional directional effect such as the plane flying overhead near the beginning. It’s certainly capable but as with the film nothing to give your speakers too much of a workout.

As this is a back-catalogue MGM disc, originally made by the now-defunct Orion Pictures, you can guess the rest. There are fewer language and subtitle options, reflecting the territories MGM have the rights to. There are sixteen chapter stops and no extras at all. The DVD is encoded for both Region 2 and Region 4.

True Heart is a bland family adventure film that may well pass muster if you caught it on TV, or rented it, but doesn’t really warrant a trip to the cinema or a purchase as there is much better family entertainment out there. It is of interest as a minor item in the filmography of one of America’s best younger actresses, who was fifteen when this film was made. If you do wish to buy this, it would be best to wait until it turns up in a sale.


Updated: Apr 27, 2005

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