Playing like an incredibly straight and far less interesting Pulp Fiction, Heat Wave has a calm and quiet manner that, while at first captivating and even engrossing, eventually wears thin and winds up becoming dull, more than anything. That’s quite a feat given the film only lasts 90 minutes.
It’s not that the film is inherently bad, in fact quite a lot of it is pretty good. The time hopping narrative trope is, while overused to the point of parody now, still an interesting way to approach a story, and writer/director Jean-Jacques Jauffret knows how to get the best out of it. We see every day scenarios (waiting for a bus, grocery shopping etc.) through multiple angles, the narrative hopping from one character’s point of view to another throughout the course of the story, and that makes for interesting viewing.
But, while all these new view points certainly alter the way we ultimately view the plot and structure of the film, it doesn’t really do anything beyond that. The film seems to want to be making the point that people have their own lives and that all of these stories are only important to the characters it directly affects, but it never really feels like it runs with that enough, especially given the way all the characters intertwine anyway (I care about things my friends are doing, y’know?).
Maybe I’m missing the point, but it just felt all a little bit unnecessary. The time hopping structure of the film doesn’t seem to be wholly necessary and the film wouldn’t have been harmed much if the story played out in a linear fashion.
When we look at Pulp Fiction, by placing the events of that film in order it would lose a lot of what makes it so great, but with Heat Wave I’m not sure that’s the case. It wouldn’t have the narrative structure, but that would sort of be it. It’d still be the same film, with the same outcome and the same emotional beats.
Ultimately it feels more like a flashy gimmick than it does something that genuinely advances and helps further the story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good gimmick and it leads to some interesting moments when we repeat scene with a new context to watch them through, but that’s about it.
There are people who will love it, and it is an interesting watch. There’s a meticulousness about some of the shots, and it does look great. The camera lingers long in wide angles for big portions of the film and that adds a mundane but almost beautiful quality. There’s nothing here that’s not something we’d see in everyday life, and the static nature of the camera only serves to add to that.
It’s as though we’re a fly on the wall, just watching the everyday lives of these people, and there’s a strange sort of honesty and energy to that. I’ve always bee partial to “slice of life” movies anyway, so that sort of works for me.
There are moments where the camera lingers too long and I found myself getting a little fed up with the pacing toward the end, but it’s the climax where the film really lost me, straying over from subtle realism to contrived silliness. I get the impression that the filmmakers wanted to add an element of tragedy to the movie but… well, these characters were all already tragic, I don’t think I needed the extra bit.
The performances are all great, with everyone bringing something interesting to the table. Adele Haenel shines as Amelie, and she is the most watchable of the four leads, while it’s Yves Ruellan’s grumpy old man that gives the audience a reason to keep watching as we wait patiently for his segment to finally appear.
By the time we got there, though, I’d already started to lose interest, and ultimately the film became a struggle to get through.
There’s a lot here to like, but it’s just not enough to keep momentum going throughout the runtime. It’s certainly an interesting watch but I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it enjoyable. I’m not sure why the film is intent on getting all of its leads to strip off, but there is a funny sort of enjoyment in trying to work out how each one will eventually shed their clothes.
In the end Heat Wave is, as Edward Norton’s Narrator in Fight Club might say, a single-serving movie. It’s interesting enough to warrant a watch, but it’s not good enough or enjoyable enough to warrant returning to.
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