The Beat That My Heart Skipped Review
Here at last is the Blu-ray release of The Beat That My Heart Skipped, a taut and gripping crime drama by French director Jacques Audiard, best known for A Prophet (2009) and Rust & Bone (2012). The film is a remake of James Toback’s 1978 film Fingers, albeit a loose one since only the basic premise remains intact.
The plot concerns the personal and moral dilemnas of Tom Seyr (Romain Duris), a Parisian real estate racketeer under the employ of his morally corrupt landlord father Robert. The portly Robert (played with characteristic subtlety by Niels Arestrup), is a less imposing figure than he perhaps once was, and coerces his son into being his enforcer and debt collector. This father and son dynamic is best exemplified in one early key scene in which after hearing of rent due from a local restauranteur, Tom displays a lack of interest in doing his father’s dirty work. Robert then attempts to collect the money himself and is, as a result, roundly beaten up and thrown out of the door, red-faced with shocked humiliation. After witnessing this, Tom has a change of heart and assaults the man and using a knife to his throat, procuring the money with ease. Here and in later scenes where we see Tom take care of his comparatively frail father, there is a distinct role reversal.
A chance encounter with the former manager of his late concert pianist mother, persuades Tom to reacquaint himself with playing the piano; a childhood passion which has in recent years fallen by the wayside. He enlists the teaching services of Chinese pianist Miao Lin (Linh Dan Pham) who inconveniently doesn’t speak a word of French, and sets about trying to re-establish his past talents. This largely revolves around the need to perform a technically demanding Brahms piece in order to ‘audition’ for the manager, in a bid to become a professional concert pianist and essentially follow in his mother’s footsteps. Here lies the narrative crux of the film - Tom is torn between two worlds; that of petty crime in the murky Parisian property racket, and that of a devotion to his instrument and a sort of salvation through art. What provides the narrative tension of the film is his indecision as to which path his life should take and the consequences of that choice. Tom is a deeply conflicted character and when we see him fail to correctly play pieces on the piano, some of his thuggish temper and violence surfaces and yet he appears distracted and vaguely uneasy during the acts of violence and intimidation carried out by his racketeer colleagues.
A subplot concerning Tom’s relationship with his philanderer colleague’s wife seems something of a narrative cul-de-sac, as does a scene featuring the (criminally underused) Melanie Laurent. She plays the trophy girlfriend of a Russian mafioso with whom Tom’s father has a money-related quarrel, and her scene doesn’t seem to lead the plot anywhere. These are nit-picking issues however. Throughout the film, Audiard’s direction is unfussy yet precise and the performances are excellent across the board. Not least by the ever-reliable Romain Duris who plays the lead with an unmannered assurance, at times mad with violent rage and at others exhibiting a fragile tenderness. Alexandre Desplat’s score is necessarily minimal and unobtrusive and acts as a great counterpoint to the classical piano pieces, which feature throughout.
Overall The Beat That My Heart Skipped is an engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable watch, and Audiard displays the same directorial and storytelling nous here that has made his subsequent films so gripping.
The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and Stéphane Fontaine’s crisp cinematography looks fantastic.
The sound options available are the standard 2.0 stereo and 5.1 Dolby surround sound, with a variety of subtitle languages.
There is a fairly generous selection of extras to be found on the disc. These include a light-hearted rehearsal session with director Jacques Audiard and actors Romain Duris and Jonathan Zaccai, an illuminating (if shoddily filmed) Q&A session, the obligatory theatrical trailer and interviews with the director, co-writer and composer. Also featured (bizarrely), is a short clip of Romain Duris singing a song to camera which bears no apparent relevance to the film (titled Romain Duris singing, appropriately enough).