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August 8, 2011 | by  | in Film |
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Still channeling French New Wave and shooting everything like it’s an indie perfume commercial, Heartbeats, the sophomore effort from French-Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan, is very much a continuation of form to follow his promising (if nothing more) debut I Killed My Mother. Ignoring criticisms of plagiarized elements of style, which seemingly substitute for actual depth, few can deny that Dolan (aged twenty-one and with two films to his name, both of which premiered at Cannes) is a budding talent – a multihyphenate prodigy on his way to claiming the title of 21st Century Hipster Orson Welles.

That said, to compare the two would purely be to compare their sense of young confidence and multitasking aptitude rather than the form of their films. Welles completed his debut masterwork at twenty-five, a film boasting a wisdom twice the years of that; Heartbeats, on the other hand, feels… well, twenty-one, if that makes any sense. It’s a film made by that age, for that age, about that age – and to the film’s credit, it doesn’t attempt to shoot for anything more grand or profound than that.

The always-immaculately-dressed/groomed Dolan stars as Francis, who grapples with the pangs of infatuation when he (and his best friend Marie) fall for the same boy, Nicolas, a shaggy, sexually-ambivalent Adonis (picture Robert Pattinson by way of Matthew McConaughey). This puts into motion a ménage á trois of romantic one-upmanship, ranging from the humorous to the quite painful. Heartbeats teeters from here on, wavering between a genuine meditation on the lustful/painful fluctuations of the adolescent heart and a film-school exercise of capturing hot people in slow motion.

Possibly Dolan’s strongest, freshest suit is his writing. Segments of interviews with various young adults about past relationships are interspersed within the central narrative and these nuggets – despite the irritating zooms – boast the most laughs and insight of all. Particularly, watching a recurring brunette with glasses spit his caustic dialogue is one of the film’s highlights. Moments like these prove Dolan is comfortable where he is (angsty reflections of ‘a life lived on Hotmail’ and all) and his films will proceed to reflect that self as he continues to age. As an artist, we can’t demand much more that.

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