The cynic in me says that the reason 2 Hearts was panned by critics is because it is too uplifting. I have this theory that those who see it as their job to comment on American culture (and I understand the irony here) believe that anything that is too moral is somehow detrimental. Or at least the kind of morals that they see as the correct ones. Morality can be a slippery thing, for some. The problem comes when one holds to their way of thinking so tightly that they begin to feel that everyone should think as they do. This is one of the reasons I love my Faith. There is no force involved in being a follower of Christ. To be sure, there are certain ways of behaving that a Christian feels are correct and incorrect. But truly, you are free to follow these or not, but in doing so you show God that not only do you love Him but that you love others. That is the first and foremost commandment Jesus had for His disciples, to love your fellow man as yourself. As long as you do that, you do right by God and society. These ideas, without being too overtly Christian, are embodied in this film.
One of the opening lines of 2 Hearts reminds us that either everything is a miracle or nothing is a miracle. A miracle is what happens early on in the life of Jorge (Adan Canto). While playing soccer one day in school, he suddenly falls to the ground and is rushed to the hospital. Apparently he has a rare disease and his doctors do not give him many more years to live because of the damage to his lungs. Before I go any further, it should be noted that the majority of the film is narrated by Chris (Jacob Elordi), one of the happiest guys you will ever meet. He dreams of going to college with his older brother, but ends up going to Loyola instead (not Chicago, as it turns out, but New Orleans, though it is never explicitly said). Once there, he meets Sam (Tiera Skovbye), an upperclassmen who wants to start a safety team to make sure irresponsible college kids get home safely and not end up face down in a ditch (forgive my creative license here). Chris is smitten with Sam and volunteers to help her with her endeavor. While we see all this unfolding, the film moves back and forth between Chris’ life and Jorge’s. We see Jorge grown up, far outliving his life expectancy, and meeting, falling in love with, and marrying Pan-Am stewardess Leslie (Radha Mitchell). We also see Chris and Sam get married and start their lives together. Okay, so I know I do not typically insert such warnings, but I feel (particularly if you have seen the trailers and are not familiar with the book on which this is based) I should warn you that there are spoilers from here on out. It certainly took my be surprise when the film took this turn. For much of the film, the two characters are extremely blessed and leading happy lives. As you watch all this unfold, you might say to yourself: why am I seeing two separate lives living at two different points in time (Jorge’s story takes place, for the most part, before Chris’)? What do these two have to do with each other? Jorge’s life expectancy begins to catch up with him and his health declines. Around the same time, Chris suddenly has a brain aneurysm and when he gets to the hospital the doctors pronounce him to be brain dead. As it turns out, the thing that Jorge needs are new lungs and Chris’ organs are a perfect match. Thus Chris’ lungs are transplanted into Jorge and he makes a full recovery. So moved is Jorge by the timing of it all that he determines to find the family of the person who gave him what he needed to live. When he does and he learns about Chris’ story and who the young man was, Jorge refers to Chris as the angel Gabriel and, given the wealth his family enjoys by owning a run company, begins a charitable organization in Chris’ honor for others awaiting a transplant.
The events in 2 Hearts are based on a true story, though I have not done any further research on the matter. The only reason I mention this is because my hunch is that critics of this film write off the characters, especially Chris, as being unbelievably good. The other issue, though, and perhaps this is a little more legitimate, is that much of the film never actually happens. Chris and Sam never marry, or start a family, and Chris does not become a firefighter. Chris’ brain aneurysm happens about half-way through the film (although the opening shot is of him being rushed through the hospital), and from there is a series of scenes of what his life would have been like had he lived. While it was a little bit of a metaphorical punch to the nether regions when you find out that this is all a figment of Chris’ imagination, since he is the narrator, in hindsight it is not so bad when you think about it. At the time I was balling my eyes out. Thank God I was the only one in the theater. You can act all annoyed that his life does not turn out as he might have wanted given what is seen in the movie. For me, though, it added emotional weight. I would also submit to you that any piece of cinema that causes you to react on this level is usually doing something right.
Had Chris simply died in 2 Hearts without the fantasy life they showed after his brain aneurysm, aside from being a shorter film, it would have been less fulfilling. What filled it out completely were the subtle nods to faith in it. It is not an over-the-top Christian movie, though I would have been fine with that as well. Instead, it is kind of the every day faith so common to so many. Not all of us are called to live in a monastery or pray three hours a day. Nonetheless, God desires for us to turn to him in the good times and the bad. You see specific examples of this throughout the film. As Jorge’s health continues to worsen, you see Leslie praying the Rosary. While Chris lies unresponsive on his hospital bed, his dad tells him to put his hands in God’s hands. And yet these are not a bunch of holier-than-thou people, either. Jorge and Leslie have sex before marriage, and Chris and Sam attend some kind of pregnancy yoga session. So one can question whether or not they are devout Christians. The point is, God knows what we need better than we know ourselves, but He is what we need the most at all times.
I whole heartedly (no pun intended) recommend 2 Hearts. It is a tear jerker, so if you have trouble with such films just be warned. I do not know if it is exactly appropriate for younger audiences, though I would not say there is anything in it too objectionable. They would probably just be bored. In any case, it is a great example of how one man can serve others even in death, and the blessings that can come from such service.