Dolan’s pretty decent second feature is an inverted “Jules and Jim”-meets-Almodovar-type picture, showcasing his penchant for stylish and crisp filmmaking.
Dir. Xavier Dolan
2010 | Canada | Drama/Romance | 101 mins | 1.85:1 | French & English
Not rated (likely to be R21 for some homosexual content)
Cast: Xavier Dolan, Monia Chokri, Niels Schneider, Anne Dorval
Plot: Friendship turns to romantic rivalry for Francis and Marie when a veritable Adonis named Nicolas enters their lives.
Awards: Won Regards Jeunes Prize & nom. for Un Certain Regard Award (Cannes); Won MovieZone Award (Rotterdam)
International Sales: MK2
Subject Matter: Slightly Mature
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
(Reviewed on DVD)
Xavier Dolan’s second feature, Heartbeats, made when he was only 21, was a sign that he was ready to take on more ambitious projects in the future. Considering his immense talents behind (and in front of) the camera, it wouldn’t have seemed a surprise at that point in time to see the young hotshot tackle a nearly three-hour romance epic as his follow-up in Laurence Anyways (2012), or what could be his finest work to date in Mommy (2014).
Heartbeats is a pretty stylish film, with crisp cinematography that brings the characters, who are duly dressed in a range of striking wardrobe, vividly to life. Dolan’s taste for music is also superlative, at least for his age, as he toys with the attention-craving slo-mo technique as an excuse to play out songs in their entirety (in fact, some of the film’s most delectable sequences involve the use of ‘Bang Bang’, sung in Italian), whilst his characters strut the streets like celebrities living the good life.
The reality, however, is that his trio of characters are just common folk engaging in ordinary middle-class activities, who are trying to connect with one another as friends—and possibly lovers.
“Love me or leave me.”
Francis (Dolan) and Marie (Monia Chokri) are good friends, but when an attractive young man, Nicolas (Niels Schneider), enters their lives, things begin to spice up. Heartbeats are certainly raised with both Marie and Francis feeling sexually attracted to him, though Dolan finds a way to keep everything under the lid.
In a way, one could see Heartbeats as an inverted Jules and Jim-meets-Almodovar-type picture, but fashioned as a modern treatise on tenuous relationships, where romancing the other takes more than just strong desire and suggestive action.
The film asks of us what it means to develop feelings for another implicitly, and this is where Heartbeats kind of works in an intriguing way—it operates psychologically under the surface (like a muffled heartbeat…), though the film’s visual extravagance pushes these ‘undercurrents’ to the fore, manifesting through strong colour hues and cool camerawork (like a visible body…) that just about capture what it might feel like to yearn for an elusive love.