A psychedelic take on a modern-day menage-a-trois, Heartbeats gets a lot of points for showing that youthful infatuation is not as as uncomplicated as most people make it to be.
The 22-year-old Xavier Dolan–who also wrote, produced, and directed the film–is the gay and rather awkward Francis, best chum to the retro chic Marie (Monia Chokri). They meet Nicolas (Niels Schneider), the touchy, “self-satisfied Adonis” who seems to have been born for no other reason than to slather his friends with hugs, kisses, and ear-nibbling. The two best friends fall head over heals Nicolas and his golden locks, and they try to outsmart each other to win his attention. Nicolas keeps them on their toes, inviting them both to dates, to a weekend on his mother’s house in the woods, and even sleeping with them on the same bed–albeit chastely. Marie and Francis’ friendship deteriorates, culminating in a lowly cat fight in the woods, while Nicolas coolly looks on and halfheartedly calls them off.
Dolan intersperses the narrative with talking heads of different people scorned by love. Every so often the story would give way to a guy or girl ranting about romantic problems, as if talking to a shrink. It is confusing at first, and there is the danger that viewers might find this technique pointless. But the effect is not to be missed, however, and succeeds, albeit weakly, in getting the main message across: young love is a glorious experience, but can be hard and hurtful and comes with a lot of complications.
In the end, Nicholas leaves them to go to Asia, but not without driving the two friends to the wall lovesick. Marie helplessly resorts to typing him letters, while Francis finally manages to pluck up the courage and confess his feelings. “What made you think I was gay?” he indifferently replies to Francis’ long, agonizing monologue of a confession, while bluntly dismissing Marie’s poems as something he wouldn’t have even lighted his stove on.
The film, titled Les Amours Imaginaires in French and screened in the 2010 Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section, may not be the first to paint on screen the quirks of love and human relationships, but it certainly is a worthwhile effort to do so. The film’s artsy sequences, the dark room lights, and fashionable costume design also adds to its visual appeal. More than anything, though, the film rakes rakes in positive acclaim for soberly concluding that platonic love, indeed, might just be more powerful than sexual attraction, and that strong friendships can weather almost anything. The film concludes with Francis and Marie meeting Nicolas again in a party, but refusing to talk to him. They then both eye the same new guy, and move on.
Heartbeats currently has a rating of 73% in Rotten Tomatoes.