Eye For Film >> Movies >> Straight To The Heart (2008) Film Review
Straight To The Heart
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
What does it mean to experience love? It's a question that troubles many a shiftless young man. But for Benoît, it's a cause of constant uncertainty in an otherwise focused life. Focused, that is, on a job he loves and is good at but that isn't exactly socially approved: stealing cars. He's entangled with a sort-of-ex, Anne-Marie, with whom he keeps falling back into bed for passionate sex, but they spend most of the rest of the time angry at each other. Then he meets Sylvie, a sophisticated middle-class woman who might be considered out of his league but might also be attracted to the glamour of his different life. Struggling to resolve his competing desires, he often seems oblivious to the enduring, undemanding love that emanates from his young partner in crime, Jimi.
Jimi is the essence of a good kid who has inadvertently found himself on the wrong side of the law. Struggling to support his severely depressed mother both financially and emotionally, he still keeps up the pretence that he's going to school, and he's trying to find his way through the confusing experiences of adolescence with only Benoît as a guide.
It's a heavy-handed storyline in places, but is alleviated considerably by Keven Noël, who plays Jimi with real assurance yet with a refreshing lightness of touch. This is a boy trying hard to be a man, and to find a role model in a man who wants to continue being a boy. His possessiveness toward Benoît threatens their friendship, but is perhaps what is ultimately needed for Benoît to find the happier, more settled life he dreams of.
The difference of approach between French and English-language filmmakers when it comes to the social underclass often makes for interesting viewing, and British viewers may well find it refreshing to see the world of these young criminals presented simple as-is, with no moral comment. People do live that way, after all, and that aspect of their moral journey isn't really the point. There's a relaxed realism to the interactions between our heroes and the gangland bosses to whom they deliver. Stealing cars is shown as what it is - quite easy and relatively lucrative.
Yet whilst this avoids glamorising it, it does create another problem; there's simply a shortage of action where the film really needs something to help it pick up the pace. Yes, there's some quite explicit sex, but it's so riddled with angst that it provides as little real relief for the viewer as it does for Benoît. Because so much of it is focused on grim interiors, misery and drudgery, the film threatens to overwhelm our sympathies to the point where we stop caring, reducing the power of what ought to be key emotional scenes.
There was clearly a lot of talent involved in this film. Some of the cinematography is gorgeous, especially during the brief periods when we escape from the city. The different ways in which the sex scenes are shot, making them strikingly different in character, is impressive. Pierre Rivard is an adequate lead, if not a brilliant one. One is left feeling that it ought to have amounted to something more, yet it is still a worthy effort that bodes well, in particular, for Noël's future career.Reviewed on: 03 Dec 2010