Heartbeats is one of several foreign films I’ve watched recently. I used to strongly dislike watching a movie with subtitles, as I felt it distracting, but I suppose Pan’s Labyrinth broke me of that. While an English language film with subtitles gets frustrating, as I feel the need to read everything despite knowing what is being said, I’ve found reading to often be quite worth the trouble with foreign films. Another recent discovery is finding English language dubs to be absolutely frustrating, and completely robbing the actors of part of their effect on the narrative (thanks for ruining Kidnapped for me by only offering the English dub, Netflix).
I’ve been mentioning Heartbeats to quite a few people lately, as it certainly left an impression, but I find it hard to define whenever someone asks me what it’s about. Netflix’ summary left me expecting a drama — “Best-friends Marie and Francis meet a charismatic wanderer named Nicolas and suddenly find their longtime friendship tested to its limits. As the love-triangle between the three intensifies, Marie and Francis vie for Nicolas’ affections” — but I keep finding myself thinking of it as a comedy. It’s no comedy by typical American standards, with no adventure to recall one’s drunken escapades or eye-rolling physical comedy (sort of), and it is most certainly not a romantic comedy, but I find it too amusing to consider it a straight-laced drama, and I feel “dramedy” is more descriptive of television sitcoms.
But as Marie and Francis walk down separate sidewalks on the way to Nicolas’ birthday partywayne shot slowed so that they move to the beat of “Bang Bang“ (YES, that song, from Kill Bill, apparently originally sung by Cher), or when Marie tries to convince Nicolas that the love poem she sent him was a completely innocent mistake, or Francis’ random daydream of Nicolas posed like a demure cherub and being rained on by marshmallows, I can’t help but laugh. The film takes itself completely seriously, though, and it is absolutely wonderful for doing so. The scenes with “Bang Bang” are, perhaps, my favorite, for both Marie and Francis dress up and look their best, and you can tell from the first set of strings in the music that it is all out war between the two best friends. I mean, just look at that look of hate and disgust on Francis’ face when he sees Marie in that dress, and the triumphant fierceness of Marie as she takes her seat:
While Marie and Francis both fall for Nicolas, it is far from a love-triangle. While they do sleep together, as in all three of them, actually sleeping, it’s a clothed situation with three friends sleeping over and no one wanting to sleep on the floor or the all-too-small couch. Nicolas certainly has ways about him that make you wonder, but he does innocently interact with these two as one good friend might to another.
The narrative is an excellent tale of unrequited love, and the way crushes and jealousy can tear down friendships, just as Marie and Francis’ frustration with each other comes bursting out and the tense “wrestling match” over Nicolas’ affections becomes an actual on-the-ground-throwing-leaves-everywhere wrestling match. But, it’s perhaps the film’s comedic take on the ridiculous actions someone might make for the sake of a crush that make the narrative so endearing. I’m sure most can imagine their own history of ridiculous things or just how often you felt absolutely certain that the smallest friendly gesture was the most significant hint that he or she was totally into you. Those memories are groan-worthy now, because you know that was all on you, but they remain fine tales to laugh over with friends and a drink or three.