My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a 2020 American horror film about two siblings caring for their sickly younger brother.
Written and directed by Jonathan Cuartas – making his feature debut – the Dualist-Film Exchange production stars Patrick Fugit, Ingrid Sophie Schram, Owen Campbell and Moises L. Tovar.
Dwight prowls the streets after dark. He searches each night for the lonely and forlorn, looking for people who won’t be missed. Dwight takes no joy in this, but he needs their blood. Without fresh human blood, his fragile young brother Thomas cannot survive.
Each death takes a larger toll, the burden of his crimes weighing heavier each time, threatening to crack his spirit. But Thomas and his sister Jessie are all the family Dwight has left, and as a fiercely private and close-knit family unit, they depend on him and the rituals they’ve learned in order to keep their secret. But while Dwight yearns for another life, Jessie needs them to stay together. And always the boy must feed…
“Not only does the film deliver a slow burn with strong emotional beats, but it also includes plenty of blood and some subtle yet gorgeous practical effects […] It’s a very unique take that keeps the film grounded in reality. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a haunting family drama that cuts deep.” The Blogging Banshee!
“Nothing is explained in the film and very little takes place outside of the confines of the house in which they all live, seemingly cocooned from the world. Cuartas’s film is very strange indeed; it doesn’t all work, but it maintains a sombre pitch throughout and a sense of moral devastation that’s pretty hard to shake off.” Bloody Flicks
“Viewers who enjoy offbeat vampire fare such as The Transfiguration, The Addiction, Nadja, Only Lovers Left Alive, and the like are certain to find plenty to savor with My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To. Like many of those films, this is a slow-burn outing that builds in intensity, and though there is plenty of bloodletting, the emphasis is on meaningful characterization and good storytelling rather than gore.” Horror Fuel
“The film follows a slow trajectory but provides death scenes throughout the story to keep the easily bored audience members interested. Perhaps not a horror movie in the traditional sense, the film plays with the emotions of a sibling bond and will leave some viewers tearful at the end.” Killer Horror Critic
“Running a lean 89 minutes, My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To shares a brutal efficiency with the siblings onscreen, only occasionally lingering on strange moments inside the family […] Oxygen may feel as if it’s at a minimum in the world that Cuartas has created, but the itself feels like a breath of fresh air with its sharp execution.” The Moveable Fest
” …it’s somewhat frustrating that the film treats Thomas in a similar fashion to his older siblings – he may be the centre of the story but he’s largely sidelined. But fans of kitchen sick vampire movies like Martin, The Addiction and the aforementioned Rose: A Love Story will find much to satisfy in this story of sangre slurping in the suburbs.” The Movie Waffler
“My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To has a shockingly relevant tale to tell of loneliness, illness, and dependency. The vampire part is almost beside the point. A top-notch film heralding a new important voice in the industry.” The Pitch
“Occasional credibility gaps betray the writer-director’s inexperience, but overall this is a quietly absorbing, small scale enterprise with some moments of genuine tension, augmented by the doomy throbs of Andrew Rease Shaw’s score […] this is largely an affair of oppressively confining, dunnish-hued interiors.” Screen Daily
“If you don’t mind a film that takes its time, that can be a tad too arty, but which will give you characters you care about and situations that will make you fear for their safety then this is a film for you. Ultimately, My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a small gem of horror film that is worth a look.” Unseen Films
“The presence of some minor glimpses of light are a surprise, but certainly deserved – though without changing the fundamentally dour dynamics here. Superb, subtle performances underpin the whole, with a special nod to Patrick Fugit as Dwight – your heart could break for him, honestly.” Warped Perspective
Having premiered at Tribeca in 2020, Dark Sky Films will release My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It theatrically and on Digital in the USA on June 25th 2021.
In the UK, Lightbulb Film Distribution will release the film on Digital Download from June 28th 2021.
Cast and characters:
Patrick Fugit … Dwight
Ingrid Sophie Schram … Jessie
Owen Campbell … Thomas
Moises L. Tovar … Eduardo (as Moises Tovar)
Judah Bateman … Turner
Katie Preston … Pam
Anthony Pedone … Homeless Man
Jon Rhoads … AJ (voice)
Ivanna Picon … Housekeeping Clerk
Nancy Fong … Thrift Store Owner
Micah White … Waitress
Colby Frazier … Father
June Frazier … Daughter
Sarah Longoria … Mother
Steve Brown … Tall Man
Salt Lake City, Utah
Aspect ratio: 1.33: 1
‘My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To’ is a line from one of the songs played on the family’s karaoke machine.