3 Hearts (3 Coeurs) is a romance directed by Benoît Jacquot and set in provincial France. 3 Hearts takes the viewer on an introspective journey of both requited and unrequited desires, cravings and the ultimate foibles of the heart.
It begins with middle aged tax accountant Marc (Benoit Poelvoerde) catching the eye of the vexing Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg). After a night of long tobacco filled walks and romantic escapades they decide to not exchange numbers but meet in a specific location in Paris. It’s kismet. Unfortunately Marc suffers a heart attack on the day of the the meeting and barely misses her. Fast forward and Sophie (Chiara Mastroianni) is in Paris being audited and needs help. Step in Marc who once again falls quickly and passionately in love. The two are engaged to be married and Sophie yearns for her sister to return to France from America for the wedding. But alas! As you may have figured out, Sophie’s sister is Sylvie and now Marc’s heart is in a tug of war. Will Marc remain faithful to Sophie? Or will he leave her for Sylvie? Or will your atttention fizzle long before the drawn out conclusion? Probably the latter.
This film is the caricature of foreign arthouse cinema to a hollywood fed audience. A group of bourgeoisie French chain smokers contemplating life and affairs of the heart. For this tawdry affair Benoit has ensembled a remarkable cast, all four characters are standouts. Benoit Poelvoerde has excellent on screen charisma with his co stars. Chiara Mastroianni leaps out from the screen playing the matriarch and glue of the family. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Cathy Deneuve excel as loyal sisters bound by business and blood. Both have a remarkable ability to convey a dozen emotions behind a fleeting expression or subtle gaze. Bolstered by the dialogue, they are given free reign to toy with their characters in silent and intriguing ways.
Benoit paints magnificent and historical France in a certain new light. He illuminates hidden beauties of rarely seen suburban France with wonderful scenery and sets. Though he really has made a shamble of the films score, done by Bruno Coulasis. The tension he works so hard to build thoughout the film is nullified by very over-the-top Jaws-esque duuuuun duuuun’s peircing intermittently throughout the film.There were scattered laughs in the cinema as what was supposed to be brooding foreshadowing became an outlet for comedic tension. He really overplays this and ultimately it becomes more distracting than anything else, taking you out of the film.
It is refreshing to see a middle aged man in film pursueing female leads his own age. There was a maturity to these relationships that isn’t often seen in most romantic genres, which are more often then not whirlwind affairs between two young twenty-somethings. However many of the character motivations and choices are puzzling and much of the dialogue was very ham fisted. We are continually told how Sylvie and Sophie are best friends and would die for each other, yet the curtain into this tight knit relationship is never lifted. Save for one short scene between the two we only know of their relationship through the reciprocal lens of Marc or through the guidance and urgings of their mother.
Overall the film feels remarkably contrived and maudlin. The intial dalliance of Sylvie and Marc while engaging, isn’t a big enough fulcrum for the rest of the film to balance out from. It is hard to believe Sylvie postpones her return to France from America for 3 years to avoid a man who she believes stood her up after a relatively fanciful one night encounter. Though perhaps the less cynical and jaded will appreciate this film slightly more. This is regrefully one of the few times the newly born colloquialism ‘still a better love story than Twilight‘ does not apply.