With Love and a Major Organ Review | A Real Heart Ripper

by Andrew Parker

Twisty, clever, and pleasingly genuine, the romantic fantasy With Love and a Major Organ balances humour, cynicism, and hopefulness with a deft hand and a great deal of emotional intelligence. A literal and metaphorical dissection of what it means to give one’s heart to another, With Love and a Major Organ makes the wise decision to take its fantastical and satirical premise at full value rather than trying to weave something overly quirky or twee around it. Director Kim Albright and writer Julia Lederer walk a tonal tightrope with their collaboration, but they never waver in the conviction behind their concept.

Anabel (Anna Maguire) is a generally happy-go-lucky person. She has a day job as an office drone at an insurance company that specializes in protecting people’s virtual identities and memories, a side-hustle as a painter, and a seemingly solid friendship with a co-worker (Donna Benedicto) who’s about to get married. But analogue Anabel doesn’t seem to fit into a world where everyone’s lives are rigorously structured, scheduled, and shaped by algorithms to maximize time and ensure “personal growth.” One day while taking her daily lunch in the park, Anabel makes a connection with George (Hamza Haq), a shy, quiet man with a kind demeanour. Anabel immediately develops a crush on George, but her feelings are rebuffed for reasons she can’t quite comprehend, sending her into an existential tailspin.

That’s all I care to give away about the plot of With Love and a Major Organ, a story that’s best experienced as it unfolds rather than having the whole thing spelled out in advance. There is a major twist around the halfway point that changes the trajectory of these characters somewhat drastically, and it’s all built around Albright and Lederer’s core gimmick: the concept of human hearts being literal, seemingly random objects that can be broken, mended, lost, misplaced, traded, or discarded. While it’s a fantastical and whimsical idea, With Love and a Major Organ doesn’t lean into that gambit too heavily to come across as oppressive, instead using it to mount a larger conversation about what it means to live life happily, openly, and proudly in the face of a bleak, sanitized future.

While the plot of With Love and a Major Organ sounds like something at home in a Charlie Kaufman screenplay, there are far more similarities to the observational humour of Albert Brooks. Assisted mightily by the efforts of cinematographer Leonardo Harim and production designer Megan Macaulay, who do an exceptional job of showing more by doing less and understanding precisely where the visual story elements are best located, Albright creates a world that’s both foreign and immediately identifiable. And while a lot of the targets of Lederer’s script are low hanging fruit by this point (apps designed to run people’s lives, wellness centres, barriers to accessing useful forms of therapy, office culture, corporations that want to have robots for employees, status chasing), they feel at home here precisely because the story is itself railing against staleness. The touchstones in With Love and a Major Organ might seem futuristic at first, but they’re actually realistic concepts and tropes that become passé once everyone has adopted them and their novelty has become de rigueur. With Love is a Major Organ isn’t only a romance about making a connection, but rather what it takes to fall in love with life after crippling battles with self-doubt and alienation.

Maguire expertly finds the emotional centre of Anabel, in both her happy and depressive moments, providing a perfect navigator through Albright’s elevated and heightened world. Maguire’s chemistry alongside Haq is delightfully awkward by design, never feeling forced or unnatural, and always acknowledging that these are two very different people in spite of an obvious attraction. For his part, Haq gets to transition George from being a static, but kindly stuffed shirt into a genuinely charming, almost boyish imp who starts enjoying the little things in life again. Haq also gets to have some wonderful scenes opposite Veena Sood, who plays George’s overly protective mother. That relationship brings up a discussion about the nature of generational and inherited trauma that would play a lot better if it came up earlier in the film than it does, but Haq and Sood’s scenes together are so exceptionally acted and well written that it still works.

With Love and a Major Organ (which recently took the Best Picture prize at this year’s Canadian Film Fest) examines the many different ways people try to seek out love, self-care, and inner peace in a society that stubbornly refuses to acknowledge that everyone is different. What works for one person might not be helpful or could potentially be hurtful to another; the homogenization of self-help techniques and therapies that claim to have answers but alienate as many people as they claim to embrace. With Love and a Major Organ is a cautionary, unlikely love story about the danger of trying to force one’s feelings in a certain direction, while also holding one’s instincts with kindness and respect. It’s a creatively balanced movie for an unbalanced world.

With Love and a Major Organ opens in Toronto (Carlton Cinemas), Vancouver (VIFF Centre), and Montreal (Cineplex Quartier Latin and Cineplex Forum) on Friday, April 12, 2024.

Join our list

Subscribe to our mailing list and get weekly updates on our latest contests, interviews, and reviews.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

You may also like

Leave a Reply


This website uses cookies to improve your experience. Accept Read More