A strong undercurrent of foreboding flows fiercely beneath the surface of Benoît Jaquot’s ‘Three Hearts’. As we dip in and out of happy romcom contentment – the courting couple, the cosy marriage, the arrival of the cute toddler – scenes that would normally be underscored with suitably matching schmaltz are instead set to eerie grinds of Inception-esque music. That, combined with unnerving camera swoops and jitters, maintains in us a niggling sense of unease from the start. The cause for this discomfort reveals itself to be the fact that our leading man is sinking into a life parallel to the one he should or could have led, if it had not been for a tiny twist of fate intervening. The entire premise is a wistful and rather devious one – what happens when a small coincidence massively changes circumstances, and leads to a lifelong turmoil.
Strung-out Parisian accountant Marc (Benoît Poelvoorde) meets his soul mate Sylvie (a watchably haunting Charlotte Gainsbourg) after missing the last train home but, when chance prevents them from embarking on a relationship that is meant to be, life shifts in another direction and in a bizarre turn of events, he unwittingly meets and ends up marrying her sister Sophie (a pitifully sympathetic Chiara Mastroianni). This clever exploration of fate and ‘what if’ plays out lengthily and with unrelenting seriousness – so much so that it could have been reborn as a comedy with alternative music. There are many intense gazes exchanged across dinner tables, many tears of sorrow shed, and many, many more cigarettes ravenously smoked in an oh-so French state of anguish. Suspiciously overseeing everything is the matriarchal figure of Catherine Deneuve; no small glance is missed by this splendidly well-preserved ruler of the roost. Under her comfortable, upper-class roof, the drama continues through to its sticky conclusion as a troubled, sweating Marc digs his, Sylvie’s and Sophie’s graves. The result is a painful trio of broken hearts.
This review comes from a screening at the 58th London Film Festival 2014 (LFF 2014).