In 2009 I saw a poster taped to a lamppost. It was this striking view of a man’s head, just the lines of it, in a purple sea. I saw it again, different faces, different colours, and I wrote down the name of the film it advertised and then forgot it, remembered it, forgot it again and chased it round and round until finally I saw it. The first film of 2014, for me, and instantly a favourite. It’s called Les amours imaginaires (Heartbeats in English), Xavier Dolan did it, and it is perfect.
The charming thing is that it walks that skinny line between relatable and extraordinary. It’s the sort of story that blossoms into urban legend, the anecdote you trade with your friends in bathrooms and at beaches. Francis and Marie meet Nicolas, and they both fall in love with him; it tears them up and apart. Nicolas, for his part, stands above them and smirks as they wrestle, frustrated, furious, on the ground.
Even the location (Dolan’s native Quebec) fits the scheme: strange and familiar at the same time: they’re in Canada! I know Canada! — But they’re speaking French. There’s a reasonable chance this is less exciting to a French-speaking audience, I admit. But it’s not New York, or London, or even Paris. It’s thrillingly, exotically normal.