“With Love and a Major Organ”: A Rare Science Fiction Gem. [SXSW]

In the surreal and quirky With Love and a Major Organ, director Kim Albright deftly examines the difficulty of finding love and connection inside a world ruled by the algorithm. Based on a play by Julia Lederer, who also wrote the screenplay, Albright’s feature film debut posits a world where hearts are expendable and emotions too risky to leave unmanaged. With a plot and style that begs comparison to Charlie Kaufman, With Love and a Major Organ introduces Kim Albright as a fresh new voice in filmmaking.

Anabel (Anna Maguire) works at Virtual Insurance “where the loss may be virtual, but the feelings are real.” Unlike the rest of the world, Anabel prefers to live an analogue life and has odd habits such as eating lunch outside, writing poetry, and striking up conversations with strangers in the park. In this absurdist version of reality, most everyone has downloaded LifeZapp, an app that has such control over decision-making that people rely on it for everything — even deciding which random acquaintances you should invite to your bridal shower.


Anna Maguire as Anabel in WITH LOVE AND A MAJOR ORGAN. Photo courtesy of SXSW.

Anabel’s bold and bohemian lifestyle puts her at odds with her peers. She’s “a lonely meatball in a vat of rich tomato sauce,” according to the poem she dictates into her tape recorder. After a series of devastating rejections, Anabel’s pain becomes unbearable. She decides to remove her heart and give it to George (Hamza Haq), the object of her affection. This unexpected gift turns George’s world upside down and sends him on a journey of discovery. Meanwhile, Anabel experiences life like the pack. George and Anabel’s lives join and diverge at different points, but like the web of red thread we see in the cold opening, their stories are intrinsically linked after their fateful meeting in the park.

Surreal and absurdist stories can be difficult to get right. The trick: no matter how bizarre and outlandish the plot or setting, the characters must express emotions and problems that feel relatable and authentic. Kim Albright leans hard into this weird premise and adds many delightful and quirky touches, building a world. She uses color, music, and occasional slow motion to craft a dreamy, whimsical tone.

But the true foundation rests on the actors’ shoulders as they embody these characters. We buy into the scenario of a world where hearts can be made of paper because they do. All the actors offer gravity to their actions, but the three leads of Anabel, George, and George’s strict mother Mona (Veena Sood), help ground us as witnesses in this strange place. They have real reasons for the peculiar choices they make. Maybe we don’t understand them fully until later, but that payoff always comes.

Hamza’s George starts with stilted mannerisms reminiscent of Mr. Bean. His fear of the future has resulted in a habit of delaying reading the newspaper until the next day. This way he knows, “It will be alright.” His robotic affect seems in sharp contrast to Anna’s ebullient spirit, which Maguire pulls off beautifully. But their differences only add to the fun of seeing them switch places when the heart changes owners.


WITH LOVE AND A MAJOR ORGAN director Kim Albright. Photo Credit: David Leyes.

With Love and a Major Organ is that most rare of science fiction gems — the character-driven kind. In a genre known for dealing in what-if scenarios, emotions are often eschewed for the sake of world-building or plot. But the best storytellers in this genre remember that all innovation always stems out of a desire to solve a real human need or problem. When the pain of being human becomes too great, hiding behind an algorithm may feel like the wiser choice, but for Anabel and George, the cost of staying there may drive them — and us — towards a braver path.

Screened during SXSW 2023.

For more information, head to the official With Love and a Major Organ SXSW webpage or film website.

Final Score: 4 out of 5.

Categories: In Theaters, Reviews

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