Grade: C (2/5 stars)
“Heart of the Country,” releasing to DVD on Aug. 20, isn’t necessarily a bad movie, but there’s really not much that is too memorable in the 90-minute runtime. It’s a story we’ve seen multiple times, and including a popular country singer in the cast isn’t something we haven’t seen before, either.
Jana Kramer plays Faith, a New York-based singer returning to her home state of North Carolina after a four-year-absence. The movie indicates that it’s set in Columbus County, but there isn’t any mention as to what is the town’s name. The synopsis just says it’s “rural,” but it would be nice to have films actually give the name of the place in which it’s set, even if it is fictional.
She and her husband, Luke (Randy Wayne), are in a bit of a struggle with their marriage. Luke has been arrested for fraud, and Faith is starting to believe that he’s been lying to her for a long time. As Faith begins to reconnect with her country hometown, she reunites with cute doctor Lee (Shaun Sipos), and it obviously looks like there might be somewhat of a spark between the two.
Faith also reunites with her father, Calvin (Gerald McRaney), and her sister, Olivia (Anne Hawthorne). There’s still some kind of tension between the sisters, yet the movie never really explains why Olivia is still mad at Faith. We just assume that it’s because Olivia is the older sibling, and there’s still some hatred for something that happened when they were kids. Of course, there is that whole thing of not speaking to your family for four years, and then it’s revealed that Faith didn’t invite them to her wedding. So, could those be other reasons? We don’t know, but let’s just assume it is.
McRaney is usually cast as the paterfamilias in television shows like “Jericho” and “Promised Land,” but it never gets tiresome to see him perform in the same kind of role. He’s quite good here, and the rest of the cast has some potential, but there’s never really any moment that we feel a connection to a lot of them.
Kramer has a great voice, but “Heart of the Country” becomes more focused on highlighting the fact that she’s a country singer in real life, and less focused on trying to explore the people in the film. Much of the soundtrack consists of songs created by Kramer, and they tend to play at a somber point in the movie – of which there are many. Sure, Faith is also a country singer in the film, but there’s only one instance in which we see her sing, and it’s in a flashback to when she and her husband first met.
Speaking of flashbacks, director John Ward relies way too heavily on them. Whether it’s to show Luke getting arrested, Faith’s mother being rushed to the hospital after an accident that ultimately killed her, or the moments when Faith and Luke felt real love, we see it in a flashback. This movie is constantly trying to tug at your heart, but there isn’t much success in it doing so.
DVD special features:
The only special feature on the DVD is the music video for Kramer’s song, “The First and Last Time.”