The Beat That My Heart Skipped (Jacques Audiard, 2005), is the second film I have seen by pre-eminent French director Jacques Audiard after 2010’s magnificent A Prophet. As with A Prophet, it follows characters of Paris’s murky underworld – the ‘France’ that you don’t usually get to see. Unlike A Prophet, Beat is less about France’s ethnic melting pot in microcosm, and more a study of a character torn between two (genetically inspired) impulses – that of gangland real estate thug versus that of professional pianist.
Romain Duris (above), plays the psychotically twitchy Tom, a young guy who intimidates people into moving out of apartments, listens to techno music, and has a love-hate relationship with his father. His mother, who we are not introduced to, was a professional concert pianist, and inspired by a chance encounter with her old tour manager, Tom starts practising for an audition. The two strains of his childhood parenting vie for his attention up until the nicely worked end. The film is a success more because of the superb performance by Romain Duris than an incredibly gripping plot. This is not to say the plot is lacking, just that as a character study the film really rests on Duris’s performance, which he gives with extraordinary style, charisma, venom and intensity. While not up there with A Prophet, which merges prison drama with cultural commentary to superb effect, Beat is nonetheless an impressive piece.