‘3 Hearts’ traces a French love triangle

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Wednesday, April 1, 2015 3:20pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

The missed rendezvous: such a potent storytelling device, such a tantalizing chance to imagine what might have been if only Character A had been on time or Character B had waited another five minutes.

“Romeo and Juliet” has a whopper along these lines, and the device works even when not depicted — like between the action of “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” for instance. One of my favorites is in “Jules and Jim,” when a missed assignation is a brief plot beat, a mysterious “what-if” in the course of the great aching journey of Francois Truffaut’s classic.

I wonder whether director Benoît Jacquot (“A Single Girl”) might have been thinking of that moment in “Jules and Jim” with his latest film, “3 Hearts.” Here, a missed connection is central to the passionate tale we’re watching; its ripples keep expanding through the rest of the movie.

A tax accountant, Marc (Belgian everyman Benoît Poelvoord), shares a single enchanted evening with Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), after failing to catch the last train back to Paris. They agree to meet in Paris in a week; when they miss connections, they don’t know how to find each other.

It then happens — with fairy-tale logic — that Sylvie goes back to her bewildered boyfriend and moves to America, while Marc meets Sophie (Chiara Mastroianni) and falls for her before he realizes she’s Sylvie’s sister.

The whole thing hinges on chance meetings and charged objects — a cigarette lighter functions like a magic amulet, and also ties in to Marc’s serious heart problems. I liked the story’s reliance on such ancient storytelling tricks — a break from the dull naturalism of most current drama.

Jacquot is something of a stealth director, a quiet analyst of human behavior whose “Farewell, My Queen” (2012) garnered his first proper U.S. release in a few years. He knows how to stage important moments, from the first time Marc sets eyes on Sylvie in a nondescript small-town cafe to a fatal glance the two share across a kitchen table.

The actors are locked in: It’s especially good to see Gainsbourg — having bravely surrendered herself to the brier patch of Lars von Trier’s recent movies — get to inhabit a rather more normal character in such a subtle way. The main cast is filled out by Catherine Deneuve (Mastroianni’s real-life mother), who gives a lesson about what a movie star can achieve with relatively brief screen time.

Like “Jules and Jim,” this film might be mistaken for a romance, rather than a tragedy. But it leaves no doubt that — in French movies, at least — love is a life-or-death matter.

“3 Hearts” (3½ stars)

Benoît Poelvoord unwittingly falls in love with two sisters, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Chiara Mastroianni. Director Benoît Jacquot muses on missed connections. In French, with English subtitles.

Rating: PG-13, for subject matter, nudity

Showing: Seven Gables Theater in Seattle.

Talk to us

More in Life

Kotor's zigzagging town wall rewards climbers with a spectacular view. (Cameron Hewitt / Rick Steves' Europe)
Rick Steves: Just south of Dubrovnik lies unpolished Montenegro

One of Europe’s youngest nations offers dramatic scenery, locals eager to show off their unique land, and a refreshing rough-around-the-edges appeal.

Dark gray wheels and black exterior accents provide extra visual appeal for the 2024 Subaru Impreza’s RS trim. (Subaru)
2024 Subaru Impreza loses a little, gains a lot

The brand’s compact car is fully redesigned. A couple of things are gone, but many more have arrived.

TSR image for calendar
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

This weekend in Snohomish: The Snohomish Blues Invasion and the Snohomish Studio Tour 2023.

Made by Bruce Hutchison, the poster for “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is an homage to 1985 classic “The Goonies.” (Photo provided)
Indie film premiering on Whidbey Island

Filmed almost entirely on Whidbey Island, “A Momentary Diversion on the Road to the Grave” is set to premiere in Langley.

TSR image only
Does your elementary school child have ADHD?

It’s important to identify children with this condition so we can help them succeed in school.

This photo provided by OceanGate Expeditions shows a submersible vessel named Titan used to visit the wreckage site of the Titanic. In a race against the clock on the high seas, an expanding international armada of ships and airplanes searched Tuesday, June 20, 2023, for the submersible that vanished in the North Atlantic while taking five people down to the wreck of the Titanic. (OceanGate Expeditions via AP)
A new movie based on OceanGate’s Titan submersible tragedy is in the works: ‘Salvaged’

MindRiot announced the film, a fictional project titled “Salvaged,” on Friday.

A clump of flowering ornamental grass or pennisetum alopecuroides in an autumn garden.
My garden runneth over with fountain grasses, and for good reason

These late-blooming perennials come in many varieties. They work well as accents, groundcovers, edgings or in containers.

This Vacasa rental is disgusting. Can I get my money back?

The vacation rental Carol Wilson books for her group through Vacasa is infested with rats and insects. Vacasa offers to refund one night, but can they get all of their money back?

A woman diverts from her walk on Colby Avenue to take a closer look at a pickup truck that was partly crushed by a fallen tree during an overnight wind storm Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in north Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / Herald file)
Storm season is coming. Here’s how to prepare for power outages.

The most important action you can take is to make an emergency preparedness kit.

Most Read