Heartbeats (Les amours imaginaires) (2010)

In French with English subtitles
Written and directed by Xavier Dolan
Starring Monia Chokri, Niels Schneider, Xavier Dolan
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 95 minutes


Montréal is home to the largest francophone cultural scene outside of Paris-French Canadian music, theater, and film output rarely travel to the English-speaking neighbors to Canada’s south. More is the pity, as the scene is very vibrant and fecund. The good news about Heartbeats is that it allows the filmgoer to enjoy a fantasy evening in the youth culture of Québec.

The film opens in a faux-documentary style, confusing the viewer with a montage of the young and lovelorn, cataloging the ways their hearts have been broken. Within this morass, writer/director Xavier Dolan focuses on a pair of platonic friends—Marie (Monia Chokri) and gay Francis (played by the director)—who both secretly lust after a curly blond Adonis named Nicolas (Niels Schneider). The threesome meet at a party, one of many that make up the whirlwind social life of twentysomething Montrealers. Along with these parties, restaurant dinners and visits to the cinema pile up as well. But Marie and Francis play it very “cool,” and from this ensues the rather predictable plot.

Director Dolan focuses on the fetishes of fashion-clothing, places to be seen, an almost obsessive preoccupation with gestures and mannerisms-and yet they reveal nothing of the inner depths of what must be feeling, empathizing post-adolescents.

Is Nicolas gay, straight, metrosexually versatile, or what? Our two friends turn into opponents, vying for the aloof Adonis’ affections. But, after many cigarettes and many sighs, many hearts will be broken before the film winds down. And many American viewers will have their college dating games painfully recalled, though probably not with quite as much nuance as they would after a vintage Truffaut. Heartbeats is not quite grounded enough to qualify as a farce.

Les Wright



Beverly Berning has recently begun her fourth career as a high school teacher of French and Italian, but her love of film remains steadfast. A former film student who aspired to be just like her idols Woody Allen, Erik Rohmer and Charlie Kaufman, she has been writing reviews for Culturevulture since 2006.