Rebel Heart (2023) poster
6.9
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 98 users
# of Watchers: 282
Reviews: 3 users
Ranked #64002
Popularity #16041
Watchers 98

Lucas, the boy who has secretly loved his closest friend for three years and hasn’t dared to voice his feelings must now deal with the separation of a third person. Will he be brave enough to confess his feelings? (Source: Iamzee Studios Facebook) Edit Translation

  • English
  • Español
  • Português (Brasil)
  • 한국어
  • Country: Thailand
  • Type: Movie
  • Release Date: Oct 20, 2023
  • Duration: 26 min.
  • Score: 6.9 (scored by 98 users)
  • Ranked: #64002
  • Popularity: #16041
  • Content Rating: Not Yet Rated

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Rebel Heart (2023) photo
Rebel Heart (2023) photo
Rebel Heart (2023) photo

Reviews

Completed
John Master
2 people found this review helpful
Nov 2, 2023
Completed 3
Overall 6.0
Story 5.5
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 5.5

This essay cannot explain the film's title...who is the rebel?

Watching an unheralded short film is always a gamble. Quality can be erratic, especially given the prevalence of student films in the form. Rebel Heart is a short BL film (26 minutes) released by Iamzee Studios in October 2023. Since the closing credits list “Zee” as the scriptwriter, director, and OST singer, one conjectures this project is some kind of a self-financed production conceived by the studio’s namesake. Whether it is a student film or a vanity project, it displays the earmarks of films of that ilk: low budget, rough production values, and a less-than-professional feel. Every contributor listed in the closing credits is identified only by a single name. As of the date I watched the film, two weeks after its release, the MDL page for Rebel Heart contained a skimpy plot summary but absolutely no information regarding the cast, the director, or anyone else. Nothing that might speak to the pedigree within the film industry of the creative team behind the project. Deprived of any information that that might inform expectations regarding production value, actors’ ability, or director’s nous, I set the bar of expectation to "amateur." Despite that low level, I forged ahead with an open mind.

A short film has three basic jobs: to hook the audience right away via compelling character or an intriguing story, to sustain their interest long enough for some problem to be solved or examined, to deliver an ending that at the very least enables the viewer to walk away without concluding their time has been wasted. Rebel Heart checked one of those three boxes but whiffed on the other two. Though often shaky, the production value proved better than I expected. Grudgingly, I concede the film satisfied the minimal expectations I had. The story was messy, chaotic in the telling, and lacked the crispness one would expect from polished filmmakers. But if (and I do not KNOW the answer) those associated with Rebel Heart churned out a homemade or student film, then this result counts as a respectable effort--and rookies deserve our eyeballs and understanding. Who should watch? For starters, BL fans who regard themselves as completists can go ahead and track down this short film on YouTube. Rebel Heart will pass muster for a 30 minute investment of time. Others should proceed only if they seek it out full of goodwill for low budget results and full of tolerance for touches of messiness. Perfectionists will be frustrated.

The opening scene offered a solid start. High school student Lucas (Bug) speaks directly to camera. He will narrate chunks of the film via voiceover. His first comments lament the loneliness of being a third-wheel in his own friend group, and the resultant sense of not belonging that follows from that. Since almost all of us have at least a passing acquaintance with being a third wheel, these opening lines rather deftly draw the viewer to empathize with Lucas. Thus, Rebel Heart successfully hooks its audience within the first minute via their identification with lonely Lucas. The self-described Third Wheel then segues into a history of his friendship with Ben (Burdy) and Emma (Ami). Lucas and Ben met as high school freshman and became fast friends. The film was billed as BL, and Lucas rather clearly likes Ben as more than a friend. Fearing rejection if this crush broke into the open, Lucas did his best to conceal it. Ben’s feelings toward Lucas are a cipher at this stage, which makes sense because the point of view reflects Lucas’s understanding of their situation. The opening monolog provides a solid introduction to the lead character, and the central problem appears to be clear: how will Lucas resolve his sense of alienation? Since that is a universal theme for a high school-set story, the short film appeared to have launched itself successfully.

The arrival of new student Emma during Ben’s and Lucas’s senior year disrupted the duo’s routines. Emma, whose dialog is exclusively in English (whether spoken by her or to her), clearly fancies Ben, and her attentions account for the sense of exclusion endured by our suffering hero Lucas. Stolid wingman that he is, Lucas facilitates the putative couple’s chances to spend time alone together by removing himself from their company whenever Emma sidles up to Ben. Lucas clearly resents the loss of his closest friend’s sole attention, and via voiceover, he expresses the film’s central problem, “It hurts to see the person you care about the most choose someone else over you.” I think this premise provided Rebel Heart with a solid foundation to build a short film around. High school alienation stories have floated around forever, and coming out stories are nowadays commonplace. But their very ubiquity demonstrates confirms the appeal of these tropes. A small, compact story with seemingly minor stakes will still resonate with an audience if it is told well. With only twenty-five minutes to tell the whole tale, why complicate the narrative with unnecessary grandeur?

Unfortunately, the film abandons the viable love triangle premise within ten minutes. Rotating into the compact time frame arrives not one new story arc, but two. First, a montage/pastiche of boy-romances-boy-in-one-day scenes. Second, a preachy coming-out-to-family sequence that both extolls the virtue of loving queer sons and brothers and fails to track in internal logic. I shall omit the plot specifics of these replacement arcs, but the details include a confession by Lucas to Ben, a confession by Ben to Lucas, a kissing scene performed and filmed more convincingly than many BL series manage to do, a bizarre adventure in a mall (see Random Thoughts below for highlights), an angry, homophobic father rejecting his son over some photos he happens to have seen on his phone (from whom? of what?), a mother talking dad down from his bigoted dudgeon, a happy family reconciliation, and an outsider (Ben) interjecting himself into the Lucas’s family turmoil despite meeting them for the first time. (Wait, weren’t these guys best buddies for three years? The parents hadn’t previously met their child’s closest friend?) Oh, I forgot to mention the hitman. No, not an assassin. A bully hired to hit people. (You’ll have to watch. Spoilers.) That’s an awful lot to cram into fifteen minutes, and perhaps Rebel Heart feels overstuffed at the end. I finished the film with the sense that if the story had mined the pathos of the lonely kid for all the inherent potential in that initial Third Wheel premise, it might have told a thoughtful, touching story and still been able to inject some commentary on coming out and acceptance.

Short films can seldom conceal the constraints of low-budget filmmaking, and Rebel Heart suffers in some technical aspects. Curious jump cuts reflect questionable editing skills and mask abrupt jumps in narrative direction. The audio mixing during street scenes swallowed the dialog in spots. Nevertheless, I am willing to tolerate such flaws from a production with clearly limited resources, and none of these problems become egregious. Director Zee did a good job of positioning his camera for each scene, and the mix of close-ups to longer shots was effective. If Rebel Heart is Zee’s fledgling effort, that strong opening at least suggests the director understands how to pinpoint universal themes in human experience and emotion. Recognizing value in the telling of a small tale and understanding when to let ambition expand scope and grandeur will be their next challenge.

Random thoughts:
• One nice touch: Lucas opens the film wearing a T-shirt reading “Love Sick.” Whether this slogan represents a subtle nod toward the 2014 series that launched the BL craze in Thailand or a subtle clue regarding Lucas’s inner head space, the shirt helps to frame the emotional stakes.
• One not so nice touch: Ben breaks up with Emma via text and then immediately blocks her. She absolutely earned the dumping on her own merits, but that is never a classy way to exit a relationship. Besides, a face-to-face telling off not only satisfies the demands of chivalry, such a confrontation delivers a much more satisfying jolt of audience satisfaction to boot. She does reappear, but the ensuing confrontation was disappointingly clunky in execution.
• Scenes set at Bangkok's big malls feel like a required element in the telling of a high school story, so perhaps it was inevitable Lucas and Ben traipsed through one on their big day together. The more curious events included trying on clothes only to flee in a full sprint from the store for no apparent reason and crashing a wedding reception while a random bride and groom sang of their love for one another. More traditional activities included a flirty stroll through the lobby of a muliplex cinema.
• The singing marital party certainly felt out of place. Since the credits list Zee as a singer, perhaps the director inserted himself into the picture? If so, confident move, Mr Hitchcock.
• Later, the boys navigate through a cinema lobby where the onesheet poster for the Barbie movie will forever situate this film's production in mid-2023.
• Aside from Emma, Lucas’s Dad also speaks only in English, and other characters speak to him only in English as well. I don’t have a point. It just stuck out to me.
• As did the slight southern drawl in Dad’s accent. The homophobia spewing out of Dad sounded more authentic with that regional twang. American gays will flinch in recognition.
• Ben addresses Lucas’s parents as Mr Evans and Mrs Evans. That politeness makes Ben the first kid since the 1980s who resorted to formal titles rather than first names with the (American) parents of his friend. As a child of the ‘80s myself, I kind of appreciated this touch.

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Completed
downtherabbithole
0 people found this review helpful
Dec 5, 2023
Completed 0
Overall 6.5
Story 5.0
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 7.0
Rewatch Value 4.0

Sweet amateur production

Rebel Heart sort of falls between two chairs: well made but too long and too plot packed for a student film, not tightly paced enough and not all that technically good for a professional production,. Conflicts get resolved very easily or just go away, after some initial quite good minutes or film. Still, it has the charm of a production made because someone really wanted to, and I'd like to see the father's background explored more - with some more experience and a bit better budget for the filmmaker. This wasn't a waste of half an hour.
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Details

  • Movie: Rebel Heart
  • Country: Thailand
  • Release Date: Oct 20, 2023
  • Duration: 26 min.
  • Content Rating: Not Yet Rated

Statistics

  • Score: 6.9 (scored by 98 users)
  • Ranked: #64002
  • Popularity: #16041
  • Watchers: 282

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