At Lost Laowai, blogger Ryan writes about how the film made him reflect on the way child kidnapping cases are handled in China and the hopelessness parents suffer from losing their children:
I couldn’t help but think of Kienan while watching “Living with Dead Hearts“, the long-awaited documentary about child abduction in China by husband-wife team Charlie Custer and Leia Li. The thing that struck me most about the heartbreaking stories captured in the film is the hopelessness suffered by the parents.
[…] Not only did Kienan have an attentive media and sympathetic public, he also had a competent and driven police force. Listening to the Lei family tell how their 12-year-old daughter disappeared mysteriously, and how police failed to check surveillance tapes, school officials deleted the only potential clues to her disappearance, and her teacher didn’t bother to report her missing until many hours later (because he is a “very busy” man); the apathy of people who should care is startling.
[…] In an e-mail from Custer about the film’s release, he mentions, “Although we considered a lot of approaches during and even after filming, ultimately we decided to make a film that we felt best reflected the reality of the situation as we saw it, rather than the film that told the best or the most entertaining story.” I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but after watching the film I believe it meant accepting that there just aren’t a whole lot of happy endings when children are abducted in China. That makes the film somewhat challenging to watch, but it also makes it incredibly imperative to do so. [Source]