The quirky Canadian dramedy premieres under the Visions section at SXSW.

From the first minutes of its mysterious open, With Love and a Major Organ is an attention-grabbing, imaginative film. Accompanied by voiceover narration, a woman named Anabel (Anna Maguire, former child actress from Ever After) leads us through a wood as she follows a trail of red yarn. She lives in an alternative present where strong emotion is treated as suspicious. Her best friend Casey (Donna Benedicto, Supergirl) has become overly dependent on an app called LifeZapp, which has turned her into someone who dwells too much on societal expectations. The friends both work for a virtual insurance company, but Anabel is also an artist. She meets George (Hamza Haq, Run This Town) during her lunch breaks and falls very quickly for him.

First-time director Kim Albright helmed With Love and a Major Organ, adapted from Julia Lederer’s witty play. The film is more a sci-fi movie with strong romantic elements than a full-on romance, and is suffused in violet tones whenever Anabel fantasizes about George. There’s an otherwise muted palette to the work, with Anabel’s colorful coats serving as pops of color in a grey, drab world. It’s a visual metaphor for Anabel’s dreaminess and desires contrasted against the lack of such wants in the people around her.

This goofy, creative drama turns giving one’s heart into a literal action. After witnessing a man on a cliff tearing out his heart (the film uses symbolic objects instead of an actual organ), Anabel makes a similar decision. George receives her heart and his character changes, running away from his controlling mother (Veena Sood, Wedding Season). Both Maguire and Haq get to play two starkly different versions of their characters as the film progresses, showing the impact of emotion and wonder and what happens when such strong feelings are gone.

The opening credits sequence prepares the viewer for what is to come, and the production design team does excellent work with limited resources. With Love and a Major Organ displays a unique voice, and while I wished the film offered a deeper exploration of the romance at the center of it, I still had a grin on my face at the hope-filled end.

With Love and a Major Organ is playing during the 2023 SXSW film festival.

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