Heart of Perception is a film that looks at a woman, Alice (Ashley Ross), who is struggling to connect with father, John (Jack Kwinter). What makes their relationship so unique is the fact that John is homeless. Besides the occasional visits from Alice, John only has the birds in the local park and his bottle of alcohol to comfort him. Although their lives have taken them on vastly different paths, their relationship begins to change when John buys Alice a camera. As Alice spends the day with her father taking photos, she slowly starts to see her father for the man he really is rather than what others perceive him to be.

Written and directed by Fabiola Alliu, the film tries hard to avoid the typical conventions that come with films dealing with homeless characters. Alliu never really explores what led John to being homeless. There are comments and jesters throughout that lead the audience to believe that John may be dealing with a case of schizophrenia, but nothing is ever truly confirmed. Instead the film focuses on a specific moment in time in these characters lives. Alliu is more concerned with looking at family bonds and the little things, such as photography, that can bring people from different facets of life together.

The only downside to exploring such a finite moment in John and Alice’s life is that it does not necessarily allow for well rounded characters. While John is an interesting character, Alice gets the short end of the stick in regards to character development. Sure she comes to appreciate her father more, but you never get the sense that she loved him any less prior. If anything, she was more frustrated that her father would not accept the help she was offering. Given more time, Alliu could have fleshed out Alice more so that she did not feel like a one-note character. It would also allow the film to have a more dramatic impact.

Despite a few shortcomings, the acting by the two leads manages to keep Heart of Perception interesting. It should be noted that Kwinter in particular does a solid job of showing that John’s mind may be damaged, but his emotional core is still intact. He could have easily made John a cliché character, but instead ensures that his humanity shines through. Heart of Perception is a film that has lots of potential, but is lacking that deeper emotional connection to make it truly great.

Heart of Perception is playing in Program #3 – A Different Perspective at the festival on June 2, 2012. For ticket information, and the full list of films playing the festival, please visit the Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival website.

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