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Lonely Hearts

Film by Paul Cox

Year: 1981, 95 mins
Code: PCO-Lonely
ISBN: 978-1-921882-81-4

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Norman Kaye is a delight as Peter, the 50ish piano tuner with a whimsical streak who meets shy, sheltered single Patricia (Wendy Hughes), a woman 20 years his junior, through a dating service. This unlikely couple hits it off right away, much to the disapproval of her smothering parents.

Lonely Hearts begins as Mrs. Thompson's funeral degenerates into farce - the mourners lose the hearse. Returning to his gloomy family home, Peter Thompson suddenly confronts his loneliness. A few weeks off 50, he still wears an atrocious toupee and his closest emotional attachment is to a dachshund. Painfully aware of what he considers to be the futility of his existence, he decides to embark upon an adventure. He goes to a lonely hearts’ club and pays for 'an introduction'. He is shown the photograph of a comparatively young and attractive woman. On being reassured that Patricia wants an older man, he invests in a new toupee. For Patricia, also a victim of a smothering family, their first meeting requires some courage. Painfully shy and sexually inhibited, she embarks on a tentative relationship with Peter. She becomes traumatized by his first clumsy attempt at love-making. Previously elated, Peter is now tormented and desperate. Patricia rejects his attempt to explain, he has a grotesque encounter with a prostitute, and some clumsy shoplifting leads to his arrest and public humiliation. When Patricia finally goes to his aid, it's as much a declaration of independence from her domineering parents as a declaration of love.

Lonely Hearts is a sensitive love story simply told, but with a rich vein of compassion and humour.

Director: Paul Cox
Producer: Phillip Adams
Writer: John Clarke, Paul Cox
Cinematographer: Yuri Sokol

Cast: Wendy Hughes,  Norman Kaye

Born in Holland and settled in Melbourne since the mid-‘60s, Paul Cox is an auteur of international acclaim, having received numerous international awards.  He is one of the most prolific makers of films in Australia, with numerous features, shorts and documentaries to his name. He is the recipient of many special tributes and retrospectives at film festivals across the world, including a major retrospective at the Lincoln Centre in New York in 1992.

His films of the early and mid ‘80s – Lonely Hearts (1981), Man of Flowers (1983), and My First Wife (1984) – were highly acclaimed both locally and internationally. 
Man of Flowers premiered in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984, and went on to win Best Film at the 1984 Valladolid Film Festival as well as Best Foreign Film at the 1991 Warsaw Film Festival.
Cactus premiered in Director's Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986 and Vincent won the Jury Prize at the 1988 Istanbul International Filmdays.
A Woman's Tale won the Grand Prix at the 1992 International Flanders Film Festival in Ghent and Exile screened in competition at the 1994 Berlin International Film Festival.

More recently, Cox's highly acclaimed feature Innocence (2000) won massive audience and critical acclaim, including Best Film and the People's Choice Award at the 2000 Montreal World Film Festival; and 5 Australian IF awards including Best Film, Independent Filmmaker of the Year for Paul Cox, and Best Actress for Julia Blake.

Cox’s career continues currently, with features such as Human Touch (2004) and Salvation (2008).

Best Film at AFI Awards 1982

Quoting IMDb:  An excellent and gentle movie with a simple plot that has you hoping that everything will work out well for the main characters.

Works well as a TV movie which is where I first saw it and was then fortunate enough to find it as a discard at my local video store and thus obtain my own copy which I still watch from time to time.

Well written and with a very gentle sense of humour the plot is simple straightforward and sweet, who could ask for more? Hughes and Kaye and very well cast as the main characters and well supported by others, watch out for Norman's brother in law Bruce, he adds a droll hilarity to various episodes as does theatre director George.


Paul Cox is one of the most important filmmakers to come out of Australia ... he is a filmmaker of incredible energy, persistence and vision - all qualities which are crucial to survive as a filmmaker. He is also uncompromising in fulfilling his vision which is almost always achieved with comparatively small budgets of about $1 million. As a director, he has an ongoing screen relationship with many of Australia's greatest actors. The themes in his films - isolation, faith, hope, love, survival - remain the same and reoccur over and over, but above all else his films are about human frailty ...

Philip Tyndall, "Paul Cox - Filmmaker", Senses of Cinema


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