[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B000C05YGI][/pullquote] The Beat That My Heart Skipped is a rarity, in that it’s a ˜world cinema’ remake of an American movie. The movie in question is Fingers, a 1978 thriller starring Harvey Keitel as Jimmy ˜Fingers’ Angelelli, a young man torn between a career as a pianist and the mob.
This loose remake relocates the action to Paris, and stars Romain Duris as Tom ˜No Nickname’ Seyr, a slightly mixed up young man well on his way to becoming a full blown scumbag. Tom works in a ruthless world of property development, of the kind where people put rats into blocks of flats to get rid of unwanted tenants, and aren’t against breaking a limb or two if that doesn’t work. Tom seems increasingly uncomfortable with this aspect of the work but, still, doesn’t shy away from it.
But then by chance, he runs into Mr Fox, the former manager of his concert pianist mother. Remembering that Tom was once a promising pianist, Mr Fox invites him to audition. And Tom, whose musical ambitions have lain dormant for a long time, suddenly sees an opportunity to get out of the lowlife world he inhabits. He quickly rediscovers his passion for the piano, but can’t help worrying that he won’t be good enough, that he’s stuck and can’t get out, that his father won’t be able to cope without him. Various forces pull him in all kinds of directions “ from his pitiful father, a once successful property developer who no longer has the strength or the hired muscle to be effective, to his colleagues who demand his backup around the clock, to the woman he loves.
The Beat That My Heart Skipped can be loosely described as a noirish thriller, but the refreshing thing about it is that the plot doesn’t feel particularly structured. Unlike many thrillers, you don’t get the sense of strings being pulled in the background, just the feeling that you’re following this character as he gets pulled around, trying desperately to work out what he wants, how to get it, and what he’s prepared to do for it.
One of the reasons the film succeeds is an amazing performance from Romain Duris in the lead role. The scenes with his father (Niels Arestrup) are especially strong and can be seen as the emotional core of the film, with their ambivalent relationship beautifully drawn. Duris’s performance needed to be good too, as there’s nowhere to hide for him. He’s in every single scene in the film, and the camera is often inches from his face, capturing every twitch and glance, his fear, bravado, anger and joy. He’s very, very good.
It might be that Jacques Audiard got the best out of him.