Desert Hearts

1986

Desert Hearts

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

94%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 17

76%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,467

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Movie Info

Based on Jane Rule's novel Desert of the Heart (1964), Donna Deitch's narrative feature debut centers on a burgeoning lesbian romance between libertine casino worker Cay Rivvers (Patricia Charbonneau) and repressed university professor Vivian Bell (Helen Shaver) in Reno, Nevada in the late 1950s, a climate wherein being queer was...complicated. Landmark in its positive portrayal of sapphic romance and celebrated for its passionate, sensual bedroom scenes that nearly fog the camera's lens, Deitch's vision for Cay and Vivian's nuanced onscreen relationship explores the tension inherent in a sheltered woman accepting her newfound sexual self.

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Critic Reviews for Desert Hearts

All Critics (17) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (16) | Rotten (1)

  • ... this is an astonishingly polished and nuanced first film. It deserves to be celebrated, not quibbled with.

    January 4, 2018 | Full Review…
  • The story is not sensationalistic, although its love scene could not be more emotional. It`s a gentle story of someone being brought in from the cold.

    January 16, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • I might have enjoyed Desert Hearts more if it had been more subtle and observant about the two women... And yet Desert Hearts has undeniable power.

    January 1, 2000 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Desert Hearts, a daring and accomplished first feature by perceptive director Donna Deitch, is a movie that sneaks up on you.

    November 6, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Still, despite the occasional douse of cheap perfume, Desert Hearts doesn't succumb to schmaltz too often.

    August 22, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Desert Hearts is an important, overlooked film in the struggle to get gay characters on the screen. T

    August 14, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Desert Hearts

  • Nov 28, 2009
    One of the most sensitive stories for what it feels like to be a woman who loves women, "Desert Hearts" made quite a difference when it was released. Produced in 1985, it has been one of the most groundbreaking films of its time for the American audience- one of the many forward steps that the movie industry had to take in depicting homosexuals as beautiful and as intelligent beings as any person out there ('Making Love" [1982] also comes to mind), and one of the very few stories that had a happy ending for a lesbian couple at the time. Helen Shaver and Patricia Charbonneau make a wonderful couple on the screen, and the love scenes among them feel tender, real and not contrived at all, just like their romance.
    Anastasia B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 13, 2009
    The story of an unexpected, atypical lesbian romance set in 1950's Reno, Nevada. If you're willing to overlook the low production quality and a few stiff performances, there's a very interesting film here. Helen Shaver is absolutely gorgeous and Audra Lindley (aka Mrs. Roper) impressed almost everyone with her portrayal of the loving but closed-minded stepmother. Overall, an enjoyable, unearthshattering respite from the never-ending onslaught of 'conventional' cinema.
    Randy T Super Reviewer

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