Review: 3 HEARTS, A Showcase For Tender Side Of Charlotte Gainsbourg

Lead Critic; Brooklyn, New York (@floatingartist)
Review: 3 HEARTS, A Showcase For Tender Side Of Charlotte Gainsbourg
Marc (Benoit Poelvoorde of Man Bites Dog, Coco Before Chanel), a shlumpy tax investigator, just missed the train back to Paris. He now has to spend the night in a provincial town whether he likes it or not. By chance, he meets and chats up lovely Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg, Science of Sleep, Antichrist, Nymphomaniac). The mutual attraction is there. Marc is glad that even though she seems a little anxiety stricken, she's willing to talk to him and show around the town in this sleepless night. Sharing smokes, they end up walking all night talking.

This wasn't like one night passionate tryst of strangers. The tender encounter was some kind of sign from above, as if they were meant to be together (but of course they don't say this out loud, for they are not love stricken teenagers). In the morning, without exchanging their numbers, they promise each other to meet in Paris in one week on Friday, at Eiffel Tower, no that's too corny, at the famous fountain in the park.

The encounter was so special, It becomes a deciding factor for Sylvie not to move to the US with her current boyfriend as she's been hesitant on the matter. But the Friday comes and goes: Marc misses the rendez-vous because he gets delayed by clients and has a mini stroke from stress. Without knowing all these, heartbroken Sylvie leaves for the US with her boyfriend. 

Marc is in town again, looking for Sylvie. He ends up helping out distraught Sophie (Chiara Mastroianni, Beloved, Making Plans for Lena), Sylvie's sister, with her business tax problems without knowing that they are sisters. Sophie is a nervous wreck but very warm and attractive. The romance blooms. She introduces him to her mother (Catherine Deneuve) who cautiously observes him. For some reason, mom's a little hesitant about embracing him fully into the family yet.

Eventually Marc finds out that Sylvie and Sophie are very close siblings but whatever the reason, he decides to avoid contacting Sylvie and telling everyone the truth. Marc and Sophie marry. Marc awkwardly avoids Sylvie at the wedding. And she finds out for the first time, that it's him her beloved sister is marrying.

3 years pass by. 

Marc and Sophie now have an adorable son. For celebrating the 60th birthday of the mother, Sylvie comes home. She and her boyfriend are not doing well and Marc and Sylvie's passion rekindles in secret. Would their secret be discovered?

Benoit Jacquot is revered as 'women's director' for his rapport with many of the France's leading actresses (worked with Anna Karina, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Isabelle Adjani, Sandrine Kiberlain, Sandrine Bonnaire, and catapulted the carreers of Virginie Ledoyen, Isild Le Besco, Judith Godreche, and Lea Seydoux). He comes back to a small scale, light-hearted, character driven adult romance after success of big period costume drama, Farewell My Queen.

3 Hearts, like all Jacquot films, is a showcase for female roles. But in this film, the star is undoubtedly Gainsbourg. Unlike the roles of her late (think her collaborations with Lars von Trier, where she plays against type), with her frail figure and worrisome face, Sylvie is well within her domain. She gives a nuanced, subtle performance as a woman shaken forever by a chance encounter and who's torn between loyalty and desire.

Not quite a 'what if" story but 3 Hearts is full of regret and melancholy. It's a fluff in the vein of old Hollywood romance but with the help of today's gadgets - skype and cell phones, the film works as a tension filled romantic thriller. You don't really believe two of the most alluring actresses of our time would fall for someone like Poelvoorde's Marc, but hey, it's a man's fantasy and it works for me.

Jacquot has been busy. His new film Diary of a Chambermaid, a remake (of Renoir's classic in 1946, then again 1964 by Buñuel), starring Lea Seydoux just debuted at this year's Berlinale.

3 Hearts opens in New York on 3/13. National roll out will follow. Visit Cohen Media website for more info.

Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions on the world can be found at

3 Hearts

  • Benoît Jacquot
  • Julien Boivent
  • Benoît Jacquot
  • Benoît Poelvoorde
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg
  • Chiara Mastroianni
  • Catherine Deneuve
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3 heartsCharlotte GainsbourgreviewBenoît JacquotJulien BoiventBenoît PoelvoordeChiara MastroianniCatherine DeneuveDramaRomance

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