Hot Docs

All of Our Heartbeats Are Connected through Exploding Stars Review: Cosmic Connections

Hot Docs 2022

3 mins read

All of Our Heartbeats Are Connected through Exploding Stars
Dir: Jennifer Rainsford
(Sweden, 77 min.)
Program: World Showcase


As is obvious from its cosmic title, this movie wants to make connections: between humans and nature, between grief and the inner workings of our bodies, between humans and the cosmos.

A man dives deep into the ocean searching for his wife who drowned during Japan’s 2011 tsunami. The trauma of loss and grief has changed the shape of his heart and his ability to remember. Someone who stayed alive despite the earthquake suffers from survivor remorse, an example of broken heart syndrome. A ghost net–a mass of tangled fishing nets, plastic and ropes–thrown by a tsunami into the ocean floats for decades without breaking down and winds up on Hawaiian shores.

Scientists and seismologists could not predict the 2011 earthquake and the tsunami that followed, much to the dismay of those who suffered because of it, but animals could sense it coming and fled the shores for higher ground before the wave hit. An oar fish, called by ancient people the Messenger from the Sea God’s Palace, which dwells in the lowest depths of the sea, came to the surface, a clear omen that trouble was coming.

Not all of these descriptions of natural phenomena come together coherently and, indeed, Heartbeats sometimes feels like it’s coming at us haphazardly. But it is gorgeous, largely because so much of it is shot under the ocean waters. On both grand and microscopic scales, marine life swims or slithers along, breeding or growing in their various spectacularly vibrant niches. In one sequence, a single millimeter of water explodes, showing us millions of living things. In another, miniscule cells look like dancing crabs.

And in keeping with its title, this movie is cosmic, especially when director and narrator Jennifer Rainsford gives her version of our planet’s origins. By the time she’s told us about colliding galaxies, a multiplicity of stellar explosions, how massive photosynthesis gave our earth its living things and how it is that that our hemoglobin contains the same iron as that created billions of years ago, she’s made the case that the oceans are the other half of our lungs.

Don’t worry about cohesion. Just let this doc wash over you.

All of Our Heartbeats Are Connected through Exploding Stars premieres at Hot Docs on April 29.

Susan G. Cole is a playwright, broadcaster, feminist commentator and the Books and Entertainment editor at NOW Magazine, where she writes about film. She is the author of two books on pornography and violence against women: Power Surge and Pornography and the Sex Crisis (both Second Story books), and the play A Fertile Imagination. She is the the editor of Outspoken (Playwrights Canada Press), a collection of lesbian monologues from Canadian plays. Hear her every Thursday morning at 9 AM on Talk Radio 640’s Media and the Message panel or look for her monthly on CHTV’s Square Off debate.

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