Ever since the release of Xavier Dolan’s I Killed My Mother (2009), indie fans have embraced a new talisman.  His breakthrough film was a stunning portrayal of youthful malaise, drawing comparisons to the ultimate enfant terrible, Catcher in the Rye’s (1951) Holden Caulfield.  The French Canadian’s eagerly awaited return, Heartbeats (2010), swaps teen angst for the pangs of unrequited love.

Best friends Francis (Dolan) and Marie (Monia Chokri) drift from one unsatisfying sexual encounter to another in hip Montreal, until new prey enters their sights.  Nicolas (Niels Schneider) is a blond Adonis who lavishes them with affection, but whose ambiguous sexuality teases them into submission.  As the infatuation intensifies, the love triangle hurtles towards oblivion, where the closest of friends become the worst of enemies.

While multitasking as director, screenwriter, and actor might well be an essential economy for indie films, Dolan’s prodigious dexterity is remarkable.  The 22-year-old’s ability to make bittersweet tales on a shoestring is a revelation, putting Hollywood’s overindulged directors to shame.  His intimate touch reminds us of how powerful the medium can be with poetic visuals and storylines akin to Kar Wai Wong’s In the Mood for Love (2000).

As the aggressors in this romantic drama, Dolan and Chokri are exquisite as the friends whose bond unravels.  They draw you into their obsessions, often using only facial expressions in slow-mo scenes with a thumping soundtrack to reveal their feelings.  Their one-upmanship and sniping of competition is spot-on, particularly in a house party scene, where they exchange gleefully snide dialogue.

Dolan is a mind-blowing new auteur and deserves wider acknowledgement than the small but adoring fan base he currently has.  His hipster films are a master class in guerrilla filmmaking that have earned him a place as one of the hottest young talents today.  Don’t mistake this as simply gay interest or as another love triangle rom-com, this is bleeding edge cinema that cuts deep leaving an unforgettable scar.

5/5

2010 CA, Cert 15, 97mins, French. Released today.


Read our interview with lead actress Monia Chokri here.

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