In a world not too far from ours, hearts are not the fleshy beating organs we have in our chests, but are instead inanimate objects that can be ripped out in favour of a comfortable numbness.

With Love and a Major Organ is a thoughtful and entrancing directorial debut from BC’s Kim Albright. The film is based on the stage play by Toronto playwright Julia Lederer, who also wrote the film’s screenplay.

Anna Maguire stars as Anabel, an artist who loves bright colours, cheese puffs, and answering the phone with cheeky greetings at her dull insurance job. The world around her is noticeably more drab. Her co-workers and friends let an all-knowing app run their lives, and purge their feelings at an ominous spa-like venue. Numbness is the norm. 

Lonely, isolated from her emotionally distant mother, and looking for a real connection, Anabel’s world is turned upside down when she falls for George, played by Hamza Haq. But when she rips her heart out for him, and her own light dulls, she has to find her way back to herself.

Albright tells us she “fell in love right away” when she read Lederer’s script. She was eager to explore the original concept of the story, and flesh out the lives of Anabel and George further than the stage would allow. The world built on screen by Albright and Lederer is fascinating. While there are elements of magical realism infused into the story, some scenes could easily be plucked from our reality: increasingly dystopian headlines, a bus full of people staring at their phones, or a gallery of overly-sanitized art. 

“I’m always drawn to worlds that are slightly off or bizarre,” Albright says. “I loved how the script poked fun of our society and our inability to connect as humans. We’re far more comfortable “liking” and hash-tagging than we are having a face to face conversation.”

The zombie-like dullness of the outside world is contrasted by the thrilling scenes where we see inside Anabel’s heart, expressing feelings too big to contain and creativity too boundless to be boxed in. Albright tells us she was excited by the opportunity these scenes presented for visual storytelling. 

“I wanted to make the most of the magical realist elements in the story and express them in an exciting visual way. When Anabel records her feelings for George or when we’re with her imagination and they’re waltzing together – I knew these would be huge opportunities to play with colour, cinematography and music.”

Maguire and Haq portray both the joyfully exuberant and the lifeless sides of their characters with ease. Refreshingly, the film’s focus is less on their love story, but more on their capacity as individuals to show love and open themselves up to the people around them. “This film is meant to shine a light on HOW we connect with one another,” Albright says. “It’s about empathy and openness and helping one another see things from different perspectives.”

Photo by Robby Klein

Albright herself says she experienced “every emotion known to mankind” in bringing this ambitious film to life. Since its premiere at SXSW 2023, With Love and a Major Organ has already received quite a bit of buzz—it was awarded as Best Feature Film at both Reelworld Film Festival and Canadian Film Fest.  

Albright hopes the film shines a light on how we connect with others and deal with our emotions in today’s world. “In a world filled with so much hardship and struggle, is it better to detach emotionally and disengage? Is it easier to function this way? Or is it better to engage and feel everything – good AND bad, for better or worse.”

With Love and a Major Organ opens in Canadian theatres on April 12.