This is a feel-good movie that is uplifting without trying too hard.
Hannah Sweet, whose real name is Hannah Howard, is right at the point of a drunken career meltdown when she hears of her father's death. Reluctantly but having nowhere else to go, she returns to her northern Michigan hometown of Lost Heart to confront her past. As if the situation were not hard enough as it is, she finds that her abusive, alcoholic father had in her absence become a much loved and respected member of the tight knit community.
Melissa Anshutz is so believable as a burned out country singer that one watches the whole movie before realizing she hasn't sung a note in the whole thing. The singing instead is done by her young niece Elsie (beautifully played by Taylor Dupuis, who also co-wrote the heart-tugging country song that voices the theme of the story). Don Most plays a somewhat unconventional minister whose gentle spirit provides a counterbalance to Hannah's unquenchable anger.
It could all descend into maudlin melodrama, but the script by DJ Perry is filled with a gentle, character driven humor, and director Jesse Low keeps the emotional level honest without getting too heavy. One of the real jewels in this production is Josh Perry, an actor with Downs Syndrome whose character is integral to the storyline and is a delight to watch. Another jewel is SNL alum Victoria Jackson in a role far from her comedic persona, who gives a surprisingly touching performance as Hannah's mother.
The small town vibe hasn't been constructed on a back lot. The location is real and fresh and displays the love the filmmakers have for their native state of Michigan. But while the "look" of this movie may be vintage, rustic Hallmark, this is not a formulaic film of contrived plot twists. The surprises that emerge come out of the humanness of the characters honestly played.
Lost Heart is a movie about the soul and there are spiritual and religious themes at work, but in line with CDI's customary approach, these themes are broached in ways that make the viewer think and not cringe. While it never gets preachy, it does carry a note of uplifting faith. Might just have a tiny touch of the supernatural? Depends. Do you believe in UFA's--Unidentified Flying Angels?