Heartbeats Review

Les Amours Imaginaires unravels the friendship of closest friends Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (Xavier Dolan) after country cutie Nicolas (Niels Schneider) steps into their lives.

French tales of love, loss and everything in between often get an unfairly bad reception from their Anglo neighbours. Cited as too emotional, too alien and altogether too French they are left playing to an all too often empty auditorium. It’s no wonder then, though it is a shame, that Les Amours Imaginaires has been given the deplorable English friendly release title ofHeartbeats which has succeeded only in distorting the beauty of the substance. The imaginary love is so much more relevant to the subject under view, and it is quite a subject.

The writer, director, producer, editor, costume designer, art director and lead actor are all embodied in 22 year old Xavier Dolan and this lends itself to a feature that feels unashamedly personal to the point of autobiography. Dolan understands feeling, understands longing and most refreshingly understands ego conveying all three in such way that garners, ironically, our own affections from the opening scenes.

Being described by many as a hipster distortion of reality, only to be loved then by said hipsters, has undercut the actual reality of the film entirely. In effect it is pinpoint accurate in its portrayal of unrequited love and will find itself timely relevant to so many of a younger generation that have grown up focused on feelings themselves, and in turn have come of age to reflect in their own infatuation, not just with those they loved, but with love itself.

Obsession then underscores this feature both on and off screen and anyone who has loved deeply and unrewardingly will encounter a pang at the perfectly conjured capturing of the juxtaposition between that deep penetrating passion and the irreverence that it can meet.

Mesmerising tension develops between the three leads as the emotional apocalypse unfolds in the hearts of Marie and Francis acted to such a grand point that you feel as if you might be watching your own friends fight. Their breakdown into embittered rivals from closest friends is slow, laborious and painful and their constant placement around Nico, with object of desire always in between, captures perfectly the notion that he is both the person driving them apart and keeping them together in those scenes of explosive sexual and emotional friction.

Les Amours Imaginiaires then is as much, and more, a story about the effects of love as well as love itself. Interspersed with talking heads, each victims of their own dalliance with a tragic encounter, displays the variance of feeling as well as the dichotomy of passion that exists outside the hearts of our three leads. Although they could be seen as adding to the already slightly dragging on running time they’re affective for showing the very fact that our titular leads, as stylish and beautiful as they are, are not singular. Their problems are not their problems alone, they are not the rich kids of 90210, nor the poor kids of The O.C., these are beautiful people being corrupted and deformed by universal issues of the heart.

Giving new meaning to the phrase “Love will tear us apart” and existing as a fine case study of the fragmentary effect of love on friendship and the psyche, Les Amours Imaginaires is a sumptuous spectacle that demands empathy, reaching out and closing around the hearts of the audience. It suffers no alienation in its stylish facade for virtue of the demonic and distorted relevance of its underbelly. Feeling at once elegiac and hopeful this portrayal of love and the void its absence can cause is one of the stand out films of 2011 so far, a must see.

5/5

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