You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of Heartbeats.
If you haven’t heard the name Xavier Dolan, then I recommend you educate yourself a bit on him. Xavier Dolan is arguably the first great Millennial Director. At 27 years old, Dolan has already directed six films with almost all of them receiving an absurd amount of praise. He has won countless awards, including the Jury Prize at Cannes for his film Mommy and the Grand Prix for his film It’s Only The End of the World. He is also making his English Language debut which scheduled for later this year, which is when I’m expecting him to become a household name in America. Regardless of if the rest of his career is on par with the filmmaking of Ed Wood, Xavier Dolan will be a remembered filmmaker.
Heartbeats was Dolan’s second film, and where Dolan’s filmography is very much celebrated the “sophomore slump” is very strong with this film. Heartbeats follow two friends, a man, and a woman, as they both fall for the same man. This film is close to what I made this article series for. It is a prime example of “Art House” cinema. And when I say that the “sophomore slump” is here, that doesn’t mean the film is completely void of anything good.
The camera work is done very well. Dolan is nothing if he doesn’t have an eye for a great shot, both framing wise as well as color. Dolan captures the look and feel of Millennial culture better than almost anyone else, primarily because he is one. He captures human beauty in a way similar to Fellini. It doesn’t matter the gender, the age, or the body. If Dolan is shooting someone, he is going to make sure that by the end of the scene you think that person is gorgeous. There is one scene where Xavier Dolan and Monia Chokri are walking to a party in different parts of the town. And my god do both of them look super sexy. There is also the camera movement throughout where someone is being interviewed about love. As they talk, the camera will briefly zoom in and out of their face, somewhat like a documentary. It was interesting, and there isn’t much else to say about it. I can see someone saying this was distracting and bad, and I can see others saying this is unique and needed. I personally don’t fall under either. I just thought it was interesting.
Speaking of interesting, that’s what this film is really missing. Firstly, I could never fully connect with the film because the guy that the two leads fall for is the most boring and underdeveloped characters I have seen in a long time. The only thing the character really has going for him is looks, and that’s subjective as I didn’t find him attractive really at all. So when we have these two characters falling in love with him, I constantly had to ask myself why? What do these characters see in him? Why do they want to kiss him? Why are they fighting for him? Maybe the point of it is that is a superficial relationship, maybe the point is that all the character has going for him is looks and that is why the relationship struggles. But if that’s the case, let’s slide right into my next point.
The film feels unfocused. From the beginning of the film, I could tell that Xavier Dolan wanted to say something. And unlike most directors who hit their “sophomore slump”, I think Xavier Dolan knows what he wants to say. The problem is that I don’t think he knew the words for how to say it. The whole time it feels like the film is flopping around and trying to get the words out as to what the point and feeling of the film is. But it never lands. Instead of it being a hard hitting punch across the face it feels more like a weakened slap on the shoulder. There is no force behind it, there is not speechlessness to it. It just goes, “here are my thoughts I guess” which doesn’t lead me to anything except “Well at least you tried”.
Xavier Dolan is a talented guy. You can tell with this film, and you can sense it with his other work. But I feel like he was still getting his footing with this film. And he got his footing with Laurence Anyways or maybe Tom at the Farm. It just took him this film to fine tune exactly who he is as a director. And yes, this film isn’t great. But there are plenty of worse films out there, and at least this gives off a strange sense of hope. Something that is lacking from almost every other film I have reviewed through here.