Tuesday 7 February 2012


The work of 22 year old Xavier Dolan, the enfant terrible of French Canadian cinema with gravity defying hair, Heartbeats is out now on DVD. Watch the trailer and read my review, next.

When two friends (writer/director/actor Xavier Dolan and Monia Chokri) both fall for the same guy (Niels Schneider), so begins a complex modern love story that explores sexual identification and boundaries in modern society, all the while being almost unbearably hip and stylish.

Kind of like a 21st century Jules et Jim for the hipster brigade, these characters live inside their own far from perfect little world, rarely interacting with those from outside their circle of friends. Just look at the face of the elderly hairdresser when Francis (Dolan) passes her a photograph of James Dean to attempt to emulate; it's a look of confusion and bewilderment about the eccentric youth of today.

Heartbeats has a great eclectic soundtrack ranging from a French language version of Nancy Sinatra's Bang, Bang to House of Pain's Jump Around, used to reflect the many moods of the protagonists. Charting the lives of these social creatures and their often disastrous attempts to get Nicolas' affection or at the very least his attention, the film ranges from showing loud, crowded house parties to close, intimate sex scenes. Far from explicit, the sex scenes we do see don't have the same youthful exuberance as the party sequences, slowing down to a crawl to show a delicate and passionate union. Rich with colour, they're well executed.

As you'd expect from a 22 year old, this is a film about youth. The parties, the romance, the unwavering belief that you're better than most other people. A real slacker film at heart, the three main characters don't have to worry about working for a living. Even the sensible Marie's job gets brushed aside in favour of a trip to the countryside. Both friends adopt a laid back approach towards the others romantic endeavour considering the competition between them all part of the fun, although this inevitably gives way to bitterness and jealousy. They're characters that it's easy to feel both sympathy and hatred for.

Is Nicolas gay or is he straight? How clueless is he about his friends feelings towards him? As one character states early on in the film, there are many different levels at play that create an almighty grey area for the central characters to fall foul to. It's clear that there won't be a conclusion that's harmonious to all parties involved. The film also uses a series of talking heads about rejection, sort of the antithesis of When Harry Met Sally's aging lovers. This is romance in their 20's, where they've already had time to be burnt by the dating game.

Xavier Dolan's follow up to his 2009 debut I Killed My Mother, he's astonishingly confident in his direction, balancing the tragic tone of the movie along with the comedic elements. Sickeningly talented for his age, he's going to be a writer, director and actor worth keeping a close eye on. Stylish without falling into the trap of being mere hipster fodder, Dolan marks himself out to be a real talent, able to deliver a satisfying love story that rings true in the 21st century.


Special Features: Interview with the film's leading lady and 2nd male lead, Trailer.

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