By: Addison Wylie
Roberto Minervini’s docudrama Stop the Pounding Heart has an intentionally intrusive presentation set in rural Americana. The audience peers in on extremely realistic conversations from a cast of unknowns to a prying degree. Stop the Pounding Heart is one of those films where you demand to read the screenplay afterwards because you’re dying to find out what was scripted and what was conjured naturally in front of the camera.
With Minervini being able to capture an authentic representation of a devout family while also telling a poignant story revolving around one of the daughters (Sara played by Sara Carlson), why did I beg for more substance? Minervini’s movie is supposed to challenge the audience and ask us to read and convey understated reactions, but much of the movie feels as if it stands still – waiting impatiently for us to draw a conclusion before it can move on to the next scene.
I was fascinated while observing Sara wrestle with her faith, often trying to justify her feelings in the context of God’s way. I also liked watching a young bull rider named Colby (played by Colby Trichell) as he taught other youngins how to manoeuvre when taking a bumpy ride on a bovine. He’s a charismatic kid who blushes when he’s trying to impress Sara with his “rodeo talk”. The audience also receives lots of footage of reckless bull rides. We watch many cowboys take the plunge and while this becomes repetitive, we can never take our eyes off the bravery.
Stop the Pounding Heart is a slow burn – I get it. However, did Minervini’s movie have to crawl to get to the finish line? Couldn’t the filmmaker have elaborated on the relationship between Sara and Colby instead of focusing on them separately? Their stories are interesting, but have difficulty growing when no one else is around.
When others are present (most notably when Sara is around her large family), the movie progresses in tiny ways. However, the narrative may have exploded in a more intriguing direction if Sara and Colby had discovered their coming-of-age stories together. This would’ve introduced a lot more risk and drama for a film that is needing a dose of both – badly.
The film isn’t a total missed opportunity, but if Stop the Pounding Heart had tried a little harder to dig a little deeper, movie goers – and even the film’s unassuming players – would’ve gotten a meatier movie to grasp on to.