The Autumn Heart

Director: Steven Maler
Screenwriters: Davidlee Willson

Institute History

  • 1999 Sundance Film Festival


A simple tale of a fractured family and its cross-generational journey toward catharsis, The Autumn Heart is a powerful melodrama, marvelously executed by first-time director Steven Maler. Enriched by pitch-perfect performances (Ally Sheedy reconfirms her reemergence as one of independent film’s leading dramatic actors) and intelligent writing, The Autumn Heart blazes with sweet-natured hilarity and unabashed sentiment, determined to pry open the hearts of both subjects and spectators.
In the two decades since her divorce, Ann Simpson (Tyne Daly), a working-class bus driver on Boston’s North Shore, has successfully raised three daughters on her own, devoid of any contact with her husband or the son she gave into his care. When she suffers a heart attack, Ann develops a strong desire to see her son and begs her now-adult daughters (Ally Sheedy, Marceline Hugot, and Marla Sucharetza) to track down their brother and bring him to her bedside.
Begrudgingly heeding their mother’s request, the three women cross the class divide and discover their brother (Davidlee Willson) enrolled at Harvard and their long-estranged father living in opulence on the right side of the tracks. In their attempt to fulfill their mother’s wishes, the daughters must wrestle with their own emotional demons as their discoveries unleash a Pandora’s box of anguish and revive long-suppressed feelings of abandonment and loss. Unapologetically old-fashioned in its earnest message and honest approach, The Autumn Heart is a distinguished celebration of the journey back to family and the resilient ties that bind.

Steven Maler, Director
Steven Maler is the artistic director of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, which presents free productions to audiences in excess of two thousand per night. His production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream won the Elliot Norton Award for best director, and subUrbia won for best production. He is a graduate of the Institute of Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard University. The Autumn Heart is his first feature film.

— Rebecca Yeldham

Screening Details

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