FOR CINEMATIC GUILTY PLEASURES, you can't beat a French film about a love triangle. And sure, technically Heartbeats is French Canadian, but it's as pretty and stylish as any of its new wave antecedents.
Marie (Monia Chokri) and best friend Francis (Xavier Dolan, who also directs) fall hard for the same boy, the undeniably beautiful Nicolas, whose physical resemblance to an Adonis statue does not go unmentioned. Nicolas' sexuality is ambiguous and his interest in the duo is unclear; as Marie and Francis jostle for his favor, their own friendship begins to erode.
The finest elements of Heartbeats exist in the tension between how Marie and Francis see themselves and how they're perceived. Francis models his hairstyle after James Dean; Marie favors elegant updos, pearls, and vintage dresses. They stand out at a party like aliens or time travelers, clashing with the T-shirts and Oxfords worn by Nicolas and his friends.
Like its characters, Heartbeats maintains an inner tension between pure, deliberate spectacle, and the messy intrusions of reality. For the most part, it's carefully composed and stylish, Dolan's camera fetishistically panning across the surfaces of his beautiful cast. But it's also about two jealous friends, frightened of intimacy and driven by loneliness to compete over the same boy, and occasionally Dolan interrupts his own aesthetic to remind the audience of just that fact. In the world of Heartbeats, appearances are armor, and it's fascinating to watch them crack.