Desert Hearts (1986) - Rotten Tomatoes

Desert Hearts (1986)

TOMATOMETER

——

AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Desert Hearts Videos

Desert Hearts Photos

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.

Watch it now

Cast

Helen Shaver
as Vivian Bell
Audra Lindley
as Frances Parker
James Staley
as Art Warner
Antony Ponzini
as Joe Lorenzo
Tom Martin
as Red Cop
Donna Deitch
as Hungarian Gambler
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Desert Hearts

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (2)

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…

In Desert Hearts, [Donna] Deitch takes lesbian cinema back to its future.

August 15, 2017 | Full Review…

Desert Hearts was an important, and beautiful, first step toward a movie world where LGBTQ couples were allowed unapologetically to be themselves.

August 3, 2017 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

It advocates risk and consciousness in tandem as the only means to overcome the cold, repressive hand of so-called normative thought.

July 11, 2017 | Full Review…

Desert Hearts wasn't the first, but it's certainly one of the most significant and an important forebearer to Todd Haynes and Phyllis Nagy's sublime Carol.

January 21, 2016 | Rating: B | Full Review…

Despite many shortcomings--narrow focus, stiff dialogue, and lack of humor--it's worth seeing for historical reasons: this movie herladed a new wave of American gay and lesbian independent films.

June 20, 2006 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Desert Hearts

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 Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

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  Bartzoulianou
Anastasia Bartzoulianou

Super Reviewer

Desert Hearts Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

Discussion Forum

Discuss Desert Hearts on our Movie forum!

News & Features