“Heart of Wilderness” opens at RiverRun

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by Eric Ginsburg

Heart of Wilderness opens today at A/perture 1 at 1 p.m. today and screens tomorrow at 5 p.m. at Hanesbrands and April 21 at 7:30 p.m. at A/perture 2. Director Towle Neu will be in attendance for all three and will be joined by lead actors Patrick Mulvey and Sarah Prikryl today and tomorrow.

In some ways the setting for Heart of Wilderness in the icy waters of northern Minnesota couldn’t be more distant from the Jersey beach town of Atlantic City, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the working-class blues of Bruce Springsteen as I watched the film’s leading couple struggle.

“Down here it’s just winners and losers and don’t get caught on the wrong side of that line/ Well I’m tired of coming out on the losing end/ So honey last night I met this guy and I’m gonna do a little favor for him.”

The appeal of Bruce Springsteen is that his small-town sorrows and working-class triumphs reverberate deeply to even remote parts of the country, where the fatalism of the Boss’ lyrics (“Everything dies baby, that’s a fact/ But maybe everything that dies someday comes back”) in “Atlantic City” may be all the more fitting.

That’s the case in Heart of Wilderness, which is too suspenseful for Springsteen’s punchy style to work as scoring. The action comes quickly at the beginning, as husband Travis (Patrick Mulvey) realizes he needs to run from a drug ring he’s caught up in after trying to earn extra money to support his family.

One of the film’s strengths is its ability to maintain suspense throughout, with viewers constantly unsure if Travis and his wife Aimee (Sarah Prikryl) are being pursued as they paddle a canoe into the wilderness, or at what point — if any — the two will become aware of each other’s secrets. The action turns inwards, though the potential of an outside threat in the form of the drug ring or law enforcement still looms large.

Mulvey and Prikryl deliver talented performances as a believable bickering duo who appear trapped in a dead-end town and a marriage that long ago lost its charm, save for a couple of scenes where predictable dialogue briefly breaks the spell.

 

Dir. Towle Neu, USA, 84 min., 2015