‘With Love and a Major Organ’ Is Heart-Rippingly Romantic [SXSW 2023 Review]
With Love and a Major Organ is a decidedly different type of movie. We open with our protagonist watching a man literally rip his heart out before he allows his phone to lead him home. As we recalibrate, we listen to Anabel (Anna Maguire) tell her distracted therapist what she saw.
While this session is one of the first comedic moments, this movie doesn’t stay in the comedic lane. It also doesn’t swerve into rom-com territory. Instead, it paints with all of the colors of the genre box for something strangely beautiful and depressing.
As a recovering theatre kid, I clocked that this movie feels like a playwright wrote it. Turns out writer, Julia Lederer, adapted this script from her play of the same name. This is why we get so much time with characters, relationships, and the specific brand of dark humor that makes you wonder if Pheobe Waller-Bridge would like this movie. This script feels so big and yet so intimate. Other magical realism kids that get excited about Sarah Ruhl’s plays will feel that familiar feeling that makes us feel attacked by the relatability of the situation.
With Love and a Major Organ paints an alternative world where hearts are objects, but they can still be broken. People suppress emotions and allow an app to tell them who to marry, who to be friends with, and what they like. The last holdout in this world is Anabel, who is an artist that remembers the before times. She stands out in this world of black, white, and beige in her purple jacket and her refusal to get on board with the erasure of individuality. Her personhood is an issue for her friend, boss, and the man she’d like to give her heart to.
After a particularly bad day, Anabel rips her heart out and sends it to the man that rejected her. His name is George (Hamza Haq), another offbeat character who seems afraid to break the routine. When George rips out his heart and puts Anabel’s in, he’s awakened. The moment leads to another genre-defying turn.
With the heart of an artist, George is finally living his best life and asking his mother important questions. He’s feeling emotions and experimenting with jokes and purple t-shirts. He’s no longer afraid of the world and wants to explore it.
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Meanwhile, Anabel is becoming one of the people she didn’t understand. Without her heart, she can finally avoid all of the emotions that were too big for her. She’s able to slip into the mundane and live the easier, more boring version of her life. This script has so many levels and layers. It also has so many messages I think we could all use right now when the world seems to be permanently broken. Most of us would probably love to turn our feelings off, set our ambition aside, and fall in line for what appears to be an easier existence. However, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Neither George nor Anabel can truly live until everyones’ organs are back in the appropriate chests, and they can take these newfound lessons to heart.
With Love and a Major Organ is a whimsical, heartfelt, force to be reckoned with. Director Kim Albright knows when to let things breathe and when to push them forward. This seems hard for many directors that approach this type of movie and make them three-hour ordeals. Albright’s understanding of pacing helps Lederer’s script shine. We get the snarky jokes happening on the sideline of these major moments. We also get each flicker of humanity and longing from characters that have tried to subscribe to this new and supposedly improved way of living. There are so many beautiful moments from our cast, and we can’t help but feel a little anxious in this sterile environment.
It’s as hard to put this movie into a category as it is to put a lobster into someone’s chest. However, I could see it being a nice double feature for The Lobster, ironically enough. With Love and a Major Organ is lighter, and the humor is so much different. Yet, they both deal with loneliness in such an unexpected way. They almost seem in conversation with each other. I highly recommend it if you want something original, weird, and a little relatable.
Did you catch With Love and a Major Organ at SXSW? Let me know at @misssharai.
It’s so fantastic, sad, beautiful, and unusual that you’ll almost want to rip your own heart out. It’s a genre-agnostic treat that never lets you put it in any of the boxes you think it might fit in.