By Sian Ruddick
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This article is over 13 years, 2 months old
Director: Xavier Dolan
Release date: 27 May
Issue 358

Heartbeats is 22 year old Xavier Dolan’s second film, and a beautiful one at that. It is set in modern-day Quebec and centres around three 20-something people finding their way through love and self-identity.

Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (Dolan) are best friends. Nicolas (Niels Schneider) arrives into their lives through a mutual friend; he is referred to as Adonis at first mention and fulfils the typical role of beautiful boy, who is used to having people falling over him.

But really his character is subsidiary to the intriguing interplay between Marie and Francis. As the friendship begins to be communicated through their mutual, often competing, affection for Nicolas their lives and minds become almost entirely devoted to the emerging relationship.

The film takes in three stylistic elements. The central one is the beautifully shot, stark technicolour of the escapades of the three characters. The second is interviews with other 20-somethings about their heartbreaks and relationships. These are incredibly candid and are used as punctuation points in the film.

The frankness of these accounts, which bear no relevance to the central feature, stands in stark contrast to the confusion and subtlety of the relations between Marie, Francis and Nicolas.

The third element is the colour-filtered shots of Marie and Francis in bed with their respective partners. The isolation and distance of these relationships is almost embarrassing to watch when we have seen the same people come alive in different settings, around each other and Nicolas.

One moment that illustrates how far the infatuation has gone is when Francis’s lover asks him what his ideal lover would look like. He begins trying to be polite, describing the man next to him, but ends up correcting himself and describing Nicolas’s tall slim physique and curly blond hair. Ouch!

The film does not take itself too seriously. We laugh at the outlandish images and uncomfortable silences and the one-upmanship Francis and Marie become embroiled in.

But at the end it is they who come out of the liaison intact. They emerge purposeful, mature and headstrong, and it is Nicolas who looks like a child – unsure of himself or his desires. The original pair dispose of him and move on.

The film has a strong sense of style and identity. The use of the modern is effective – Marie’s vintage fashions clash with and complement Francis’s post-punk skinny jeans uniform.

The fantasy of the central characters is grounded by the candid interviews with the “real” people, and the people most aware of their alienation constantly seek gratification.

It’s funny, sometimes dark and always captivating. Dolan is one to watch.

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