Marc (Benoît Poelvoorde), a tax inspector from Paris visiting a French country town for work, happens upon Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a woman to whom he is immediately drawn. The two fall in love, yet never exchange names or numbers, only agreeing to a time and a place in Paris to carry on where they left off. The pivotal meeting never takes place. Marc suffers a heart attack. When he recovers and finally arrives to meet Sylvie, she has already left. Broken hearted, Sylvie returns to the partner she had left behind and heads to America for a new life. Meanwhile, Marc returns to the country town in the hope of meeting Sylvie once again, but instead meets Sophie (Chiara Mastroianni), who he marries and has a child with. The complication: Marc discovers Sylvie is in fact Sophie’s sister.
3 Hearts, directed by Benoît Jacquot (A Single Girl, Farewell, My Queen) holds an interesting concept, managing to avoid all the clichés of the stereotypical love-triangle romantic movie. The dialogue is very subtle and quite often it is more what is not being said that tells the story, allowing the audience a level of intelligence that is not often on display in conventional Hollywood fare. The relationships are realistic; with no outlandish outpourings of love, overdramatic shouting matches or ridiculous plot twists that are hard to believe.
Unfortunately, this does somehow leave the film lacking in movement, becoming stiff and, at times, almost bland. The characters themselves are rather dull. In fact, the much needed early on-screen chemistry between Marc and Sylvie is non-existent, leaving it hard to champion their love.
It is a relatively quiet film, punctuated with a sometimes too-loud soundtrack, which does not always fit with the style of the film. A sporadic voiceover also fails to gel with proceedings, adding almost no depth or sense to the film and simply coming across as a lazy plot device. More unfortunate still, every now and then a horror movie-esque double bass is injected into the background. This has supposedly been inserted to create some sort of tension, but instead has the audience expecting a masked killer to jump out at any moment.
While Jacquot has attempted to convey a true-to-life concept of how a love triangle would really play out, it often it seems that nothing much is really happening. It just feels like something is missing. It certainly doesn’t help that characters don’t seem to have any particularly interesting traits that makes them loved, loathed or anything in between. You just don’t care for them.
The pleasant scenery and refreshingly honest way Jacquot tackles this well-covered genre does not make up for the fact that the film never quite comes into fruition, and that the characters and relationships, although believable, never really seem to go anywhere within it.
THE REEL SCORE: 4/10