Francis (Xavier Dolan) and Marie (Monia Chokri) are best friends and seemingly have it all – youth, good looks and style in abundance. One night they meet Nicolas (Niels Schneider), newly arrived in Montreal from the country, and they both fall instantly for this beautiful young man.

Winner of the Sydney Film Prize at the 2010 Sydney Film Festival. 

Three-way heats up impressive second effort.

Heartbeats is multi-hyphenate Xavier Dolan's ode to the glory of surfaces as the handsome casing for what just might dwell beneath them. "Hot and Bothered" might have been a better English translation for what literally translates as "Imaginary Loves." French-Canadian Dolan's youthful ambition in this follow-up to his jaw-dropping feature debut I Killed My Mother flies off the screen with zip and assurance. He writes! He directs! He edits! He acts! And he knows a perfect haircut or just-so garment at a zillion paces.

If I had to pitch the film's concept to a potential investor, I might call it 'Jules and Jim for the 21st century." Of course, in so doing I'd be way too glib but not completely untruthful.

Truffaut's sublime portrait of the trigonometry of love and friendship involved two heterosexual best buddies devoted to each other and also in love with the same woman. Heartbeats serves up a straight woman, Marie (Monia Chokri), and her gay male best friend Francis (Dolan) as both fixate on an Adonis-like newcomer.

The mere sight of dreamy Nicolas (Niels Schneider) turns Francis and Marie's brains and loins to goo. They're like two people in a revolving door hoping to lunge for a one-of-a-kind object yet constrained by protocol into saying "After you." "Oh, no – I insist, after you." "No really, you first." Cue forced smiles, gritted teeth and raging libidinal impulses.

Dolan films the target of his characters' desire the way Michelangelo would have filmed David had a movie camera been handy in 1501. Those pouty lips! Those cascading curls! That indeterminate ambisexual does-he-or-doesn't-he quality ripe for any and all fantasies.

Like many too-pretty individuals, Nicolas, imbued with manly yet feline indifference, bores easily. While Marie and Francis whip themselves into a portable frenzy, Nicolas slouches and teases. Dolan keeps the visual paraphrases coming.

Dolan's camera loves the slow-motion strut of haunches in a sexy dress or the toss of a young head as if in a generic commercial for callow youth, set to the strains of Dalida singing 'Bang Bang’ – which the late Sonny Bono wrote in 1966. That may have been 23 years before Dolan was born but 'Bang Bang’ in Italian seems to have been composed and recorded precisely for this film.

So, Dolan has an impeccable eye and ear. And he leavens the Sturm und Drang with amusing talking heads relating their bumbling failures in the world of dating and relationships. The characters' slangy Québécois French is riddled with English for a time-capsule-of-hipness effect that may someday sound as dated as people saying "groovy, man" in films of the 1960s does now.

Mature viewers may grow weary of so much posing but Dolan's take on modern romance and the wear and tear on friendship seems tailor-made for viewers under 25. It might be fun for Dolan to revisit these characters later on in what is nearly certain to be a long and prolific career.



Watch 'Heartbeats'

Tuesday 20 April, 7:35pm on SBS World Movies (Streaming after at SBS On Demand)
Thursday 22 April, 1:20am on SBS World Movies

Canada, 2010
Genre: Drama, Romance
Language: French
Director: Xavier Dolan
Starring: Xavier Dolan, Monia Chokri, Niels Schneider, Anne Dorval

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1 hour 35 min
In Cinemas 31 March 2011,
Wed, 08/31/2011 - 11