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SXSW 2023 With Love And A Major Organ Review- A Dreamy Fairy Tale That Will Spark Joy In Your Tender Heart

Julia Lederer and Kim Albright’s With Love And A Major Organ, premiering at SXSW 2023, is as tenderhearted as a teenage girl but with none of the angsty sarcasm.

Working from Lederer’s script, With Love And A Major Organ is about love and fear. It’s about the love of others. Love of life, but most importantly, love of yourself. In a dystopian world not that different from our own, everyone lives their lives devoid of feeling. Apps like LifeZapp tell you the optimal time to say and do everything from conversations with friends and family to household chores, ensuring nobody has to ever think about anything. Logic is valued over instinct or sentiment. It’s all meant to prevent wasted time and energy on pesky things like feeling too happy, sad, or falling in love. It’s a depressingly beige world that actively stamps down individuality and emotions, good or bad.

Everyone spends their day willingly giving up control and responsibility in exchange for dialing their emotional baggage back to a one or two. It’s what my son calls being muted. Everything that bothers or excites you is still there; you just can’t bring yourself to care. Imagine if everyone was always stoned without any of the paranoia, wonder, or fun. It wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable.

Anabel, fantastically whimsical Anna MacGuire, is a technicolor person desperate to find her tribe. She wears bright colors and actively avoids the news because it is too hard to process. No one understands her. She paints and writes poetic letters to George(Hamza Haq), who she first met, ripping his beautiful blue heart out of his chest. He doesn’t remember that brief encounter, though, and they meet for real later at a park where George reads yesterday’s paper each day. His rationale is if the world is still there, nothing in the news can be that dire.

She spends her days quietly quitting her customer service job. Anabel works as an insurance agent for a company that specializes in handling claims of personal cloud memory loss. Facebook or Instagram albums, playlists, and the like. It is unfulfilling work, and the artist in her literally bursts to break free. Her friend and colleague tries to help her fit in by taking her to a weird combination of escape and rage room called Small House of Big Feels, which got a name change because the original more clinical name didn’t get enough likes from the dumbed-down public. In case you’ve missed it, this is an unpleasant reality. This world might coexist with the one in The Lobster. In fact, that movie would make an excellent double feature if you were feeling particularly depressed.

When Anabel’s Mom dies shortly after being romantically rejected by George, Anabel chooses to rip her heart out and send it along with a love letter to George. He takes her heart and puts it in his chest. Immediately the two change. Where he once was crippled by his emotional flatness, he now feels everything intensely. He’s happy petting dogs, looking at nature, and worries about kids hurting themselves. Unfortunately, without her heart, Anabel has lost all her sparkle. He seeks validation and fulfillment from his boss, no longer pointing, clicking, and scrolling through his job at Point, Click, and Scroll. She goes through the motions and neglects her friend, now choosing rational decision-making and monochromatic gray outfits.

It all culminates in a sweet final act that speaks volumes about the kind of story Albright and Lederer wanted to tell. However, whereas Molli and Max In The Future, another indy gem premiering at SXSW, is hopeful despite humans’ tendency to be selfish and screw things up, With Love And A Major Organ is endearingly melancholy like the movie equivalent of Eeyore from The Thousand Acre Woods.

Albright’s film looks like a dreamy fairy tale full of misty-eyed plot beats and gorgeous neon lighting. There’s a lovely fantasy sequence where Anabel imagines George dancing with her in an art gallery, and it looks very much like the stage play that With Love And A Major Organ started as. The tight set and simple choreography make your heart yearn for the stirrings of first love.

Lederer’s script is quirky and quippy, and she clearly has a handle on prose. Goofy gems like, “Consistancy’s exciting, consistently” are comedy gold delivered with deadpan clarity by Veena Sood(Mona), who provides some of the most significant dramatic arcs. The more than game cast you know had to erupt in laughter the minute Albright yelled cut, throw themselves into this strange world where even laughter would be frowned at.

With Love And A Major Organ is a sweet film that is easy to watch. It’s a love story you want to believe can succeed, even if it’s in a world you wish didn’t exist. It is also proof that great stage plays can be adapted into wonderful movies and still retain the sensibilities that made them great in the first place. Find all our SXSW 2023 coverage here.