A Broken Heart Leads to Heart Break
"A Stranger's Heart" wants to be a fairytale romantic drama and the opening which is heavily smothered in picture perfect fairytale styling is either going to make you reach for the off button or put you in the mood for an over sweet, feel good romantic drama. If you don't switch off what you get is what I would call a grade A TV movie with a reasonable storyline but a lot of terrible dialogue, forced acting and a lot of scenes which are so sweet it should come with a health warning. Not that "A Stranger's Heart" is all about the sweetness and there are moments of drama and heart break, some quite surprising, before it goes full circle and delivers a fairytale climax which gives you that happy ever after ending that you've been expecting.
As a child Callie Morgan (Samantha Mathis - Broken Arrow) was diagnosed with a heart problem, now as a young woman her health is so poor that she is heading into hospital to wait for a heart transplant. Hospital is certainly not what she was expecting as she is introduced to other patients who like her are in there waiting and hoping for it to be their turn next, especially when it comes to Jasper (Peter Dobson - The Poseidon Adventure) who copes by making fun of the graveness of their situation. But despite initially disliking Jasper, Callie grows fond of him especially when it turns out they both get their heart transplant ops around the same time. And that is not all as they both find themselves having feelings towards a young girl called Cricket (Mary Mouser) who was the daughter of the couple who died and whose hearts are now inside them.
"A Stranger's Heart" is very much a movie of two halves with the first half focussing on the situation of Callie who since childhood has had heart trouble and now as an adult is going into hospital to wait for a heart transplant operation. But before you get to this point you get the back story, one which starts so drenched in fairytale styling that it is a bit cringe worthy. What we basically learn is that Callie came from a loving family, the sort where the mum and dad dance of an evening and they make gingerbread houses but disaster struck and left her dad nursing a broken heart. You may wonder what the purpose of making this opening a mix of fairytale and heart break but it does make sense during the second half, giving meaning to why Callie is not only protective of becoming heart broken but doesn't believe in happy ever after endings.
Anyway the actual first half is really all about Callie going into hospital where, she along with several other sick people are waiting for heart transplants. Now you have to admire director Andy Wolk as he embraces the dark humour of these sick patients who make light of their situation. It may at times feel forced as we are introduced to Jasper who often uses an inflatable doll to make light of his situation but it brings a smile to your face. Yet at the same time it also highlights the situation of these sick individuals where even a heart transplant doesn't guarantee a new life, serving up one of the few really dramatic moments in "A Stranger's Heart".
At the same time as we get all this hospital humour we also get the romance between Jasper and Callie or to be correct Jasper's countless attempts to chat Callie up with little success. To be honest it is rather obvious that they will end up together, sharing issues of the heart in more ways than just romance. But it also ties in nicely to that fairytale opening with Callie being guarded about getting close to anyone because she saw what heart break did to her father.
Now to the second half of "A Stranger's Heart" which takes the fairytale element to a completely other level because Callie and Jasper both get heart transplants and their hearts happen to come from strangers who were a couple who when the died left a young daughter to live with her grandfather. Now you are either going to love or hate this because they both feel some deep connection to this young girl, something carried over from the child's dead parents in their hearts but find themselves in trouble when they attempt to befriend her.
There is more to it than just this and everything ties together as "A Stranger's Heart" progresses delivering warmth and heart break before bringing it all to that predictable happy ever after ending. And to be honest it's not terrible as stories go, it is very obvious and you have to suspend belief to enjoy much of it but it is the sweet sort of romantic drama you expect from a TV movie.
Where "A Stranger's Heart" is let down is both the acting and the script and I would imagine the script did little favour for the actors. There is the forced; unnatural dialogue which may sound funny or romantic when written down but when actually delivered comes across almost corny. And that means that whilst you have Samantha Mathis doing a reasonable job of playing Callie when she has to deliver the romance with Jasper, played by Peter Dobson it still feels manufactured. I could go on because whilst at times there is a tenderness to the way Mathis and Dobson work it is far too often too scripted and unnatural. The same with other actors and characters because it feels like everyone is 2 dimensional delivering a performance but not creating a character.
What this all boils down to is that "A Stranger's Heart" wants to be a fairytale romantic drama and to be honest it is exactly that. It is overly sweet and to be honest very 2 dimensional when it comes to the characters but beyond the various issues and there are a few it is sort of entertaining, that is if you're in the mood for a fairytale romantic drama which is more fairytale than anything else.