Heartbeats (Xavier Dolan, 2010): Canada

Reviewed by Kathleen Amboy.  Viewed at the AFI Fest presented by Audi, Mann Chinese 3, Hollywood, CA.

Two friends compete for the attentions of one guy in Xavier Dolan’s 2nd oeuvre Heartbeats.

Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (Xavier Dolan) are close friends who develop a crush simultaneously on the same guy – a gorgeous goldilocks named Nicolas (Niels Schneider).

Nicolas is oblivious to both Francis’ and Marie’s affections and unwittingly leads them both on with his genuine warmth and charisma.  The three continually hang out as a threesome to the chagrin of Francis and Marie, who understand the meaning of three’s a crowd and wish desperately to have Nicolas alone.

Interspersed throughout the film are humorous When Harry Met Sally style interviews with anonymous characters as they each tell the story of their own first heartbreak.

Marie finds out that Nicolas loves Audrey Hepburn, and begins a transformation of hair and dress that is reminiscent of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, while Francis transforms himself into a James Dean lookalike.

As Francis and Marie’s infatuation for Nicolas grows stronger, their friendship falls apart.  Each buy him expensive gifts, feel anxiety towards each other, hang on every word that drops from his lips, and feel compelled to always accept his invitations knowing the other will be there.  Nicolas in turn, is warm and loving and overly affectionate with both, encouraging their frustration with a threesome sleepover.

Dolan, who achieved much recognition with last year’s I Killed My Mother, once again wrote, directed and acted in this vehicle.  His film work is highly stylized and personal with gay elements, but the main theme is the survival of true friendship while love is fleeting.  Dolan shoots in the Fall for the variety of vivid colors, and also likes to slow the film to a dramatic, almost hypnotic pace that is absolutely intriguing.  He zooms in tight on his actor’s lips that his characters’ POV study intensely.  Heartbeats was listed under the New Auteur category at the AFI Fest presented by Audi, and rightly so, since he is a unique and artistic filmmaker to watch out for.

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