James Stewart stars as a railroad man hired to secretly carry a payroll despite his suspected connections to outlaws
Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (writer-director Xavier Dolan) are the best of friends - until they both fall for the same man, languid charmer Nicholas (Niels Schneider).
Ridiculously talented French-Canadian Xavier Dolan made his debut at Cannes in 2009 at the tender age of 20 with I Killed My Mother (J'ai Tue Ma Mere), which took three awards at that festival (C.I.C.A.E. Award, Prix Regards Jeune, SACD Prize) and went on to achieve over 30 award wins at film festivals and Critics' Circle awards worldwide. The young auteur began filming Heartbeats (Les Amours Imaginaires) almost a year to the day after beginning to shoot I Killed My Mother, following a search for funding he remembers as "vainly begging the tight-fisted fat cats and bogus angels to once again put flesh and bones on a dream."
That dream was the result of a road trip with two friends, which sparked the idea of a story based on a love triangle. Dolan plays Francis, friend to Marie (Monia Chokri). The pair unite in their spiky, narcissistic introversion and, unluckily, their mutual appreciation of the charms of Nicholas (Niels Schneider), a young Adonis who drifts into their lives with an insouciance that belies the havoc he is to wreak with their friendship.
The narrative itself is slight and could be scrawled in a few sentences on the back of an envelope, but that is not the point. This is an impressionistic study of the pain of unrequited love, or rather, the pain of an intense infatuation being greeted with mild warmth. Scorn would almost be preferable to Nichola's gently amused assumption that they both desire him.
This is absolutely the type of film that many will find either pretentious, full stop, or overly reliant on New Wave influences. Yet it's got a lush confidence in its own aesthetic charms that finally won me over - a little like Tom Ford's A Single Man, every frame is a joy to look at, and the three leads very appealing.
There's a knowingness to the superficially naive style on display here that makes falling for this film an attractive prospect. For all that, like the love rivals' objet d'amour, there's not necessarily much of substance behind its good looks.
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