Heartbeats (2010) (Not Rated)

It would be terrifically easy to shrug off Xavier Dolan's second directorial feature as something visually appealing but lacking in any real story or emotions. Yet I find that the emotions of the film are subtly handled—they are just as raw as Dolan's first feature "I Killed My Mother".  Plus, the movie just looks so darn great.
The movie itself is about a twisted love triangle that balances between heartbreaking and comical. Francis (Xavier Dolan) and Marie (Monia Chokri) are best friends...they've been buddies for years. But what can mess up a good friendship more than love? I would like to know.
In a chance encounter, the friends meet Nicolas (Niels Schneider), a blond haired, heavy-lidded, source of attraction for both of them. The friends both find the young man interesting so they pursue an audience with him.
Nicolas is charming, nice, handsome, and altogether the "perfect' man for anyone...naturally, both Marie and Francis want him.
It's not an immediate attraction, but it slowly becomes obsessive over time. The friends claim that Nicolas is "not their type" and they verbally dismiss him. Inside they are being eaten up with attraction for Nicolas and they must do something about it.
Without speaking to each other about their desires, they both vie for Nicolas's attention and they both get it in equal amounts.
But the question comes down to whom Nicolas is interested in...the plot thickens.
To be fair, although "Heartbeats" has the same dark humor that Dolan managed to create in "I Killed My Mother", it's a very depressing movie about the futility of love...rather, the futility of the chase.
Keep in mind that "Heartbeats" was completed when Dolan was 21 years old—he re-captures all the horrible awkwardness of adolescence and pairs it with a staggering maturity that artists three times his age still haven't mastered.
I mentioned in my review of "I Killed My Mother" that Dolan is somewhat reminiscent of Woody Allen and the same is true with this film...though he's less neurotic, comedic, and selfish.
Interview-style segments of people talking about all the bad relationships they've had intersect with the story of Marie, Francis, and Nicolas—these rantings and emotional outpourings are what give "Heartbeats" its poignancy.
Dolan seems like the quintessential hipster: his logo is even a bow-tie. As such, his movies are simply gorgeous to look at. His styling is unmatched in its execution and technique.
Bold colors and sharp angles make up "Heartbeats"...as if Kubrick had made an Indie film.
The love triangle slowly gets forgotten as Dolan manages to weave a brilliant portrait of what love truly is. Ironically, like Malick's "To the Wonder"; "Heartbeats" doesn't try define love. It shows examples of love and it asks questions, but is never pretentious enough to claim to know the reasons or answers.
Marie and Francis become rivals, they are at war and the prize is simple: Nicolas. Neither one of them stops to think if the man that they are yearning for would return the feelings and heartache seems inevitable for one of the two.
Much of the film is filmed in slow motion with a indie pop vibe. Songs play in the background, including a French version of the Nancy Sinatra song "Bang Bang" which isn't as haunting as the original. Still, Dolan keeps the movie playing to his strengths. Red, blue, and green light illuminates intimate scenes while Bach's famous cello Prelude in G major is playing—these are some of the most moving scenes that I've seen this year.
"Heartbeats" is episodic in structure, cutting to black when the time comes...like each section is one beat of the heart.
The movie is rich with visual metaphors that include anything from walking down a staircase to cigarette. I will say this about "Heartbeats": it should have ended five minutes earlier.
Dolan (who wrote the script as well) skips back and forth between languages as he did with his debut film. He is, again, very selfless by letting Chokri soak up more of the spotlight even though Francis is more interesting as a character.
Youth is the center of "Heartbeats"—young bodies with old souls.
"Heartbeats" is another gem from Dolan, a man who can seemingly do no wrong.
It's uncompromising, not preachy, and wonderfully poetic.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

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