Simplicity can be difficult to master, yet director Benoît Jacquot and writer Julien Boivent managed to achieve it beautifully through their emotionally charged love story, 3 Hearts. The film has had success so far in being selected for the Venice International Film Festival 2014 and for special presentations at the Toronto International Film Festival 2014. Now, being screened at the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2015 it is a top pick by film critics Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton.
3 Hearts follows the love lives of two sisters Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and Sophie (Chiara Mastroianni) and the man they both love, a Parisian tax inspector Marc (Benoît Poelvoorde). Wasting no time, the film begins with the encounter between Sylvie and Marc after he misses the last train back to Paris and is left stranded in Valence, a picturesque and quaint provincial town in France. Typical of a dramatic French love story, he falls in love instantly and they spend the night together before agreeing to meet once more in Paris. After Marc fails to get there on time because he has a heart attack, she leaves. He decides to go back to Valence and find her again, but, failing in his mission, he meets Sophie who he then falls in love with. It is at this moment when the twisted love story really begins and we all wonder how it seems so easy to find and fall in love in France.
While the love triangle story between two sisters and one man isn’t something that all people can relate to, the film still manages to be relatable through its theme of the importance of family and love, but most importantly the struggles that we face when family and love conflict.
The storyline isn’t uncommon in French films; it’s the actors that elevate this movie. With such an emotionally reliant plot, the cast carries the movie beautifully, creating realistic tense moments that show how love can lead to self-destructive decisions. The use of camera close-ups works effectively, showing the fragility and emotional state of the characters.
A stand out role was Catherine Deneuve, who played the mother of the two sisters. Her body language and expressions showed all her thoughts without having to say a single word. It showed her suspicions and intimately played out the fact that mothers always know what’s going on. With no presence of a husband, her character shone as being a strong, independent woman, no longer reliant on a man. This provided a refreshing contrast from the love toils her daughters were facing, especially Sylvie who seemed to constantly need a male presence in her life.
The score by Bruno Coulais was, like the film, very simplistic and relied on the use of pounding and droning noises. It was effective in providing suspense and anxiety when it was needed, however at times was too repetitive. Yet, perhaps it’s this repetitive nature that exacerbated the frustration of the foolish choices the characters were making and drew us in, allowing us to become more involved in their story.
All in all, while the plot was nothing of a stand out, it’s emotional themes, the use of simplicity, terrific acting and its emotional nature made the film worth watching.