Il n’y a de vrai au monde que de déraisonner d’amour
The only truth is love beyond reason
This is one of those times when the English title Heartbeats, not being a direct translation of the original French title Les amours imaginaires, does the film a disservice; the French title is a much better fit for what is to come.
Xavier Dolan’s second film contains a number of visual touchstones immediately recognisable from his first film J’ai tué ma mère. There are ‘confessionals’ to camera, slow motion walking to beautiful 60s music, tea being poured in to a delicate china cup, a woodland wrestle. There are also cast crossovers – Niels Schneider plays the love interest, Anne Dorval the mother, and Dolan himself returns as one third of the potential love triangle.
The tone, however, is very different. Dealing with an egotistical manipulator who plays with the emotions of those who immediately adore him, this has much more of a light touch and in fact I could almost see sections being populated by Doris Day and Rock Hudson on occasion.
This is partly due to the design and costuming. Marie (Monia Chokri) is a lover of vintage, and dresses in Audrey Hepburn-style attire much of the time. There are also shades of Maggie Cheung in In the Mood for Love. When Marie and GBF Francis (Dolan) meet Nicolas (Schneider), they both become infatuated with him, to the detriment of their own friendship. It flatters Nicolas’ ego to have them both chase after him, and he leads them both along, causing jealousy and bitterness, which he appears to find amusing.
The audience can see what’s going on, and sometimes it’s difficult to understand why they are even bothering with such a self-centred individual – but then, as the interspersed camera confessionals underline, we’ve all been there. We’ve all spent far too long yearning for someone or some relationship that is never going to work, done stupid things in order to impress, gone out of our way to ‘accidentally’ bump into the object of our desire. We’ve been strung along, discarded, and left to pick up the pieces of our broken hearts.
By the end, Dolan shows us that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and that – painful though it is – we’d probably rather have the ups and downs of the relationship game than not feel those emotions at all. At least when we’re in our twenties.