Film Review: My Feral Heart (2016)

Every so often, a British film-maker delivers a low-budget independent film that far exceeds the output of the famous directors and massive Hollywood studios. ‘My Feral Heart’ is a fine example of that. Directed by Jane Gull, and starring Steven Brandon, this film won fourteen international awards, yet is little-known in this country. Thanks to BBC 4, I was able to watch it, and I will say from the start that it is exceptional.

This is the story of Luke, a young man with high-functioning Down’s Syndrome. He lives with his mother, and he is her carer. He feeds her, goes out to get the shopping, even bathes her and dresses her. He is completely devoted to her. Then one morning, he finds her dead in bed, and his routine life is shattered. Despite his obvious capabilities, the fact that he has Down’s Syndrome means the authorities will no longer allow him to live in the family home.

Against his will, he is taken to live in a care home, with other young adults who have learning difficulties.

At least the staff are kind to him, especially day manager, Eve, (Shana Swash) who takes a shine to him and allows him an element of freedom. Luke uses that freedom to go shopping for the care home, and to wander the rural district of Essex where he now lives.

Some men arrive to look after the gardens of the care home. They are offenders, sentenced to do Community Service instead of prison time. One of them, Pete, (Will Rastall) befriends Luke, and also becomes close to Eve.

On one of his countryside explorations, Luke finds a young girl caught in a snare trap. He takes her to safety in a old barn. She is filthy, uncommunicative, and scared. He brings her food and clothes, washes her, and visits regularly to look after her. She is the Feral girl who gives the film its title.

We discover that Pete is a hunt saboteur, part of a group who go out and disrupt fox-hunting in the area. As Luke loves animals, he asks Pete if he can go. Worried about Luke’s condition, and other medical problems, Pete refuses. But Luke follows him anyway, and becomes involved. Going to check on the feral girl later, Luke cannot rouse her, so carries her back to the care home to get help.

With no spoilers, that’s about it. A short running time of less than ninety minutes, no car chases, no police sirens, and no sex. A small film about people on the margins of society, doing their best to get by in a world where they are almost invisible to outsiders.

It is just fantastic, believe me. It will break your heart with its honesty.

Filmed on location in Essex, beautifully photographed and sparingly directed with skill, the film is anchored around a truly remarkable performance from Steven Brandon in the lead, (he really has Down’s Syndrome) with a completely believable portrayal of Eve from Shana Swash, and every other member of the cast on top form.

If you can find it, please watch it. I will never forget it.

77 thoughts on “Film Review: My Feral Heart (2016)

  1. I watched this on iplayer a few days ago. Mr. Brandon is an excellent actor. It was great to see a chap with Downs as the lead presented in such a well rounded way. we saw things through his eyes and could sympathise with him. The film needs a sequel!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mmmm . . so far nobody who has commented has watched the film but are very positive about it! I just watched it Pete and thanks for the recommendation.
    I thought it was quite poor, a weak story and not well edited. Quite a lot of ‘suspend belief’ moments.
    I fully acknowledge the performance of Steven Brandon which was OK but I think he was given a tough task with that script.
    I will be interested in the comments after people have viewed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to hear your thoughts on it, Ro. Suspending belief is often necessary when watching films, (or I doubt I would ever watch any) but I think your comment that it is ‘poor’ is harsh.
      Love to you both, Pete. x


      1. I think I lost it with the whole feral aspect . . I am able to suspend belief up to a point but I have my limits.
        And ten minutes of cutaways??
        Lots of love Pete, keep ’em coming xx

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like a film to watch we have Hayley with downs syndrome in our family and she is such a happy bright young lady who works in a restaurant staffed by other downs syndrome youngsters, bakes cakes and absolutely is loved by staff and customers…she even did a bike ride for charity last year…Hayley could teach us all a few lessons her joy in life is amazing ..I’ll try and find that film x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you would love it, Carol. A completely positive impression of a person with Down’s Syndrome, and great acting from Steven. Well done to your Hayley, I bet she is cherished where she works.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds just my sort of film, though I had not heard of it before. I know it’s a contentious issue and easy to say when you have not had to make that decision, but I think it’s awful when so many people abort babies because they have Downes Syndrome. Denying someone their right to a life which has every chance of being happy and making those around them happy. Modern medicine and attitudes means they do not have to be shut away and can reach their potential, quite a few seem to become actors!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In my experience in the ambulance service, everyone I met with Down’s Syndrome was kind, affectionate, trusting, and loyal. That also comes across in this lovely little film.
      It is still available on i-player, Janet, so you can watch it if you have access to that.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I worked for Special Olympics in Oregon in the 90s and the Down’s adults show us deep love, which is god-like. We all need to respect them better, Pete. I’d love to see this movie. xox

        Liked by 1 person

  5. (1) I remember hearing about this film.
    (2) I had a Down’s Syndrome girl in a class I taught. Her name was Desiree, and she was adorable. Unfortunately, she was terribly mistreated by her handlers. I won’t go into details here, but it was a very sad situation.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. No! I like REAL cartoons. Dumbo, Pinocchio, Snow White, Popeye, Betty Boop, etc. (And Japanese ones like Princess Mononoke, and Akira) Pixar doesn’t work for me at all. Maybe I was too old when it was invented.

          Liked by 2 people

            1. I have a grandson, so I have had to sit through most of them. Including Toy Story, which he watched about 40 times when he was staying here. Bugs is great, so too Foghorn Leghorn, Barney Bear, The Flintstones, Road Runner, and so on. Cartoons, not computer generated. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

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