Film, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
2 out of 5 stars
(2user reviews)
Quebecois writer-producer-director-star and former child actor Xavier Dolan attracted festival attention and praise (though not, bafflingly, a UK release) for his semi-autobiographical 2009 debut feature, ‘I Killed My Mother’. Made when Dolan was barely out of his teens, it probed the spiky co-dependence of a single mother and her gay teenage son (Dolan) with barbed nuance. Frequently hysterical in both senses, it simultaneously echoed and castigated its lead’s callowness, flaunting its influences (from Nouvelle Vague and Bergman to Van Sant and Almodóvar) while demonstrating Dolan’s own stylish, remarkably assured grasp of mise-en-scène, montage and sound design.

His follow-up is a kind of ‘Jules et Jim’ de nos jours in which best buddies Dolan and Monia Chokri go gaga for new boy in town Nicolas (Niels Schneider), precariously trying to maintain an air of nonchalance – not to mention their friendship – in the face of his indiscriminately flirtatious narcissism. That Nicolas’s charms are debatable is beside the point: ‘Heartbeats’ captures with delicious ambivalence the compulsive, self-debasing rush of infatuation, indulgently swooning at one moment (cue Jean Genet drawings and Wong Kar Wai slo-mo) and rolling its eyes in exasperation the next.

As an actor, Dolan conveys charm, petulance and longing with aplomb, and he has cast well: Schneider has the callous beauty of a Caravaggio and Chokri is a delight, undermining the careful composition of her exquisite retro styling with an incrementally curled lip or widened eye. It can seem as if style is all in Dolan’s films, but as well as revelling in its pleasures, they also dissect its limitations – sometimes without anaesthetic.


Release details

Release date:
Friday May 27 2011
97 mins

Cast and crew

Xavier Dolan
Xavier Dolan
Xavier Dolan
Monia Chokri
Niels Schneider
1 person listening

It worked for me until the end. A pair of friends compete for a boy who is free and gentle with his affection. When the extent of their ugliness to one another becomes public, the boy rejects them both. It looks great; I didn't much see the difference between this and A Single Man (they even share a preference for too prominent make-up for the men; though Tom Ford's goes over the top with the lippy in his couched-couple reading scene). It did fail at the end, though, for me. There's a party epilogue: the boy they worship comes back on the scene after time abroad. With his hair in a bonnet, a tan and spots he looks like Mr Punch and I assumed this was to indicate the loss of illusion. But, no! Our smitten couple stalk across the room to love him again. Derek Malcolm called it 'fluff', I think, and it is but it's good fluff. Oh, though the talking head interludes on relationship interrupt rather than add.

One star is one too many for this steaming, stinking pile of pretentious horse manure. Clumsily filmed, utterly unsympathetic characters, no plot worth mentioning: this is utter rubbish and OF COURSE Time Out, in thrall to pretention as ever, rates it. It's nearly two hours long but that begins to seem like two days: do yourselves a favour and stay away!