The Heart of the Matter

Based on Graham Greene’s novel, a married colonial police chief struggles with his conscience when he has an affair with a younger woman.


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  • ★★★★ review by MARTIN BRADLEY on Letterboxd

    Scobie was perhaps the most tortured of all of Graham Greene's tortured Catholics and he's played magnificently by that most underrated of great actors, Trevor Howard in George More O'Ferrall's mostly superb and largely forgotten screen version of "The Heart of the Matter". One reason Scobie is such a tortured Catholic is that he is torn between the faith he's largely lost since the death of his daughter and his love for a young refugee, (another wonderful performance from Maria Schell); he's happy to sleep with her but thinks he will go to hell if he takes Holy Communion while in mortal sin.

    This is a wonderfully acted picture throughout; Howard and Schell may have the best of it but note too Elizabeth Allan, she of "A Tale of Two Cities" and "David Copperfield", as Scobie's adulterous wife, Denholm Elliot as the young man besotted by her and Gerard Oury as the diamond smuggler who blackmails Scobie. The plot may be a trifle grim and all that Catholic guilt proved too much for audiences at the time which may account for why the film is seldom revived now. An acquired taste then, but essential viewing for anyone interested in the art of acting.

  • ★★★★ review by Reza Said on Letterboxd

    The Heart of the Matter (George More O'Ferrall, 1953) 8/10

    Graham Greene's story about Catholic guilt with everyone wallowing in it. In colonial Sierra Leone - 1942 - a British policeman (Trevor Howard), stuck in a miserable marriage, finds love with a shipwreck survivor (Maria Schell). When his staunch Catholic wife (Elizabeth Allan) finds out she nags him to go to church to confess his sin which he is not prepared to do causing everyone a great deal of stiff hand wringing and misery. Extremely well acted by the three leads (both Howard and Schell were nominated for Baftas) and the fine supporting cast - Denholm Elliott, Michael Hordern, Peter Finch. The film superbly creates the opressive atmosphere (shot by the great Jack Hildyard on location) where you can literally feel the humidity and wretched conditions all around. The downbeat situation has Howard's face betraying his stiff outward demeanor as his inner demons conflict with his religious beliefs. It is a great performance as he portrays one of Greene's most tortured characters with the plot a serious argument against Catholism for anyone wanting to convert.

  • ★★★½ review by Jeffrey Overstreet on Letterboxd

    I'll post a few thoughts later, when I have some time. For now: I'm amazed that I haven't heard this film discussed heavily in conversations about faith and art in cinema.

  • ★★★½ review by Rob Langham on Letterboxd

    Classic psychological study on the part of Graham Greene with Catholic guilt writ large in the person of Trevor Howard. Howard is gripping in the main role but the film's chief interest lies in its Sierra Leone backdrop in the final days of empire.There are a few arguments with an open sewer.

  • ★★★★½ review by Flickers in Time on Letterboxd

    I really liked this thought-provoking drama and Trevor Howard’s fantastic performance.

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