Magazine article Screen International

'If You Saw His Heart': Toronto Review

Magazine article Screen International

'If You Saw His Heart': Toronto Review

Article excerpt

Gael Garcia Bernal headlines a film which is ’expressionistic to the point of incoherence’

Dir. Joan Chemla. France. 2017. 86 mins

A Romany man, exiled from his community after the death of his close friend, finds himself subsisting in a sleazy rooming house, pulling off low-level scams to survive. Then the arrival of damaged young woman in the hotel offers him hope for a future he had given upon. Loosely based on the novel BoardingHouse by Cuban writer Guillermo Rosales, this first feature by Joan Chemla starts strongly but soon adopts an approach which is expressionistic to the point of incoherence.

He finds himself in a kind of purgatory - the kind which is nearly impossible to leave

Despite the impressive talent involved - Gael Garcia Bernal and Marine Vacth star; a lush score is provided by Oscar-winning composer Gabriel Yared - this is too opaque in its plotting and languid in its pacing to register as much more than a festival title.

A promising opening sequence at a gypsy wedding gives a glimpse of the life of Daniel (Gael Garcia Bernal) before the tragedy that cut him adrift from his people and from his own life. It’s the marriage of his close friend Costel, played by the striking Argentinian actor Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, most recently seen in BPM (Beats Per Minute). Sinuous tracking shots stalk party guests as they dance, flirt and drink. On the outside, looking in, is Daniel. At the peak of the riotous celebration, somebody lets of a fire extinguisher. Chemla makes use of the powdery white screen to cut to Daniel some time later, his face carved with sorrow, as he waits at a train station.

He is haunted by flashbacks to the accident which claimed the life of Costel, just a day after his wedding. …

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