Follow Your Heart

By Rob O'Neill | Animation
A young woman loses her 'heart', then learns to find herself.

Mary lives in a world where people's hearts live on the outside of their bodies and act like pets, which they love and bond with. These "hearts" reflect their owners, but they can also be easily lost in the fray of life.

When Mary suffers a romantic disappointment, her heart begins to languish, and both become despondent and lose their zest for life. In the lowest of her doldrums, Mary loses her heart, making life flat and dull.

But Mary begins to find her way back by reconnecting to life, and is soon reunited with the most valuable part of herself -- which too has been on its own journey, and in search of its own happy ending.

Director Rob O'Neill's charming, timeless animated short -- written by Michelle Cuevas and produced by Josh Ludmir -- takes advantage of the genre's ability to develop flights of fancy into deeply affecting and lovely storytelling, beguiling with unique detail while offering a lesson in emotional intelligence.

There is no dialogue in the short, but the solid writing nevertheless stands out, with a full character arc for Mary and a wealth of quirky detail that makes the world both recognizably ordinary and yet adorably fanciful. The idea of hearts living outside of the body as a kind of companion both offers a strong metaphor for emotions as well as a springboard for beautifully developed whimsy.

Everyone's "heart" is unique to them, with personalities both reflective and yet different from their owners, and the film has a lot of fun showing the diversity of people and hearts in this world. The cornerstone of the story, though, focuses on the central heroine and her heartbreak, pulling in viewers with each finely tuned epiphany and revelation.

The big draw, of course, is the striking animation, full of bright dynamic color and long, lively elongated lines and movement that tantalize and engage the eye. The details are charming and expressive, rewarding multiple viewings. When combined with well-paced storytelling and a terrific musical score -- courtesy of composer Thomas Faragher and featuring a track by singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams -- it's simply a pleasure to watch, both entertaining and resonant.

The ending of "Follow Your Heart" is almost inevitably happy, but it's a hard-won happiness borne of struggle, experience and time. Though it's full of vibrant color, funny moments and exists on a generally upbeat, cheerful register, there's still considerable emotional wisdom at its core -- and a charming reminder that our hearts perhaps know best what will offer true happiness, if we learn how to listen to what they have to communicate.

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