Translating to the screen the delicate if specious tragedy of Carson McCullers’ first novel was clearly not an easy matter. Nor an entirely successful one, either. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter emerges as a fragmented episodic melodrama, with uneven dramatic impact and formula pacing.
Alan Arkin’s starring performance as a deaf-and-mute loner is erratic and mannered, but supporting cast generally is on target.
Story turns on Arkin and his influence on the lives of others. Pivotal character is little more than a prop, but, as rendered by Arkin, a destructive one.
Arkin’s performance is marred by twitching mannerism. Result is slapstick at times, bathos at others. Suffice it to say that when the focus of attention returns to the main character, the pic has a tendency to fall apart.
The motivations of other characters are defined in better fashion, although the credibility of most is doubtful. Actors have an uphill fight, and to their personal credit they rise above the material.
1968: Nominations: Best Actor (Alan Arkin), Supp. Actress (Sondra Locke)