Heartbeats [Les Amours Imaginaires] Movie Review
Marie and Francis (Chokri and Dolan) are best friends who both fall for the same guy, the dreamy Nicolas (Schneider) with his golden locks and youthful mystery. Everything he says and does seems like a come-on to both Marie and Francis, who continually wonder whether he's gay or straight, but never ask him. This leads to a growing sense of competition and disappointment between them, straining their friendship to the breaking point. And Nicolas seems utterly oblivious to it all.
As writer and director, Dolan takes a playful approach that often feels reminiscent of Almodovar, worshipping both stylish women and beautiful men with languid camera movement, abrupt music and vivid colour. And scenes unfold in diptych echoes that are eerily effective. Meanwhile, the plot brings to mind Bertolucci's The Dreamers (yes, that's Louis Garrel in a late-film cameo).
But Dolan has some originality as well, most notably in the four stylised sex scenes. He seems to be avoiding both naturalism and explicitness in lieu of something more introspective, so they're intriguingly cerebral rather than sensual. It's a mannered touch that hints at pretension while teetering on the brink of looking ridiculous. But he gets away with it because of microscopic attention to character detail.
In the cast, Chokri is especially strong, capturing tiny mood shifts as scenes play out in ways Marie doesn't want them to. Her interaction with both Schneider and Dolan is incredibly honest, and both young men bring an earthy interior quality to their roles. Dolan plays Francis as a pretty boy with no self-confidence at all, while Schneider gives Nicolas an external ignorance that covers something frighteningly knowing.
In the end, this is a story about how we let ourselves down because our expectations fog our ability to make good decisions. The real world is a nastier place than the idealised romance in our heads. And Dolan seems to be saying that this is just the way it is, so we'd better learn to enjoy ourselves between the moments of agonising pain.
Cast & Crew
Director : Xavier Dolan
Producer : Xavier Dolan, Carole Mondello, Daniel Morin
Screenwriter : Xavier Dolan
Starring : Monia Chokri, Xavier Dolan, Niels Schneider, Anne Dorval, Anne-Elisabeth Bosse, Megalie Lepine-Blondeau, Olivier Morin, Eric Bruneau