The type of debut film that is brimming with good intentions but ultimately doesn’t make a strong enough case for its existence. Trading in coming-of-age tropes and stock markers of identity, Heartstone at least has the courtesy to spread its youthful anxieties over a stunning Icelandic coastal landscape, allowing its children to skulk around on verdant rolling hills and take truth-or-dare plunges into crystalline lakes and streams.
Richly atmospheric but inordinately long at 129 minutes, the film toggles its main characters’ arcs for a stretch, before giving preferential treatment to the less dramatically challenging of the two. Still, first-time feature director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson steers proceedings with enough serenity and sensitivity to soften stonier hearts in the arthouse market.
Less a structured story than a series of fleeting impressions, it is told not through dialogue or exposition, but through ephemeral, sensuous details — long hair whipped by gusts of wind, sunlight trapped in the peach fuzz of a cheek, droplets of sweat beading the nape of a neck, fingers beginning to prune in spring water. And that gives this remarkably assured debut... its immersive sense of immediacy.