101 minutes

It seems that the general acclaim given Québécois boy wonder Xavier Dolan's intriguing debut J'ai tué ma mère rose to the now 21-year-old's head. For an encore performance, mr. Dolan takes full control of the form (acting, directing, writing, editing and designing production and costumes) and crafts an elaborately glossy construct that is appropriately superficial – since surface is its theme. Fashionista best friends Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (mr. Dolan) find themselves falling hard, over heels, for the ridiculously charming Nicolas (Niels Schneider), but as their own depth of feeling is revealed they find their love is not corresponded by a youth who is as shallow as they are, only in a different fashion – and, in their judgmental, “too-cool-for-school” attitude, are they any better? And are they really in love with Nicolas or only with the image they have constructed of him?
     Sadly, mr. Dolan fails to capture lightning in a bottle twice in a row: there is more of everything in Les Amours imaginaires – more style, more insouciance, more pizzazz, more colour, more pop culture – except substance. It's essentially a throwaway puppy love story given a bright, shiny wrapping that completely drowns whatever emotion mr. Dolan may have wanted to invoke – and, as Francis and Marie begin to realise how deep the hook of their infatuation has gone, the film also gains a stronger gravitas reminding of its predecessor. But that gravitas is brutally deflated by the film's juvenile, snarky epilogue, a misguided misstep that suggests, for all its his undeniable talent as a visual stylist and as a director (ms. Chokri's performance as Marie is a fully realised anchor to the film), the maturity suggested in the debut was misplaced somewhere along the way.

Starring Monia Chokri, Niels Schneider, Xavier Dolan.
     Director, writer, production and costume designer and film editor, mr. Dolan; produced by mr. Dolan, Daniel Morin, Carole Mondello; director of photography (colour by Technicolor), Stéphanie Weber-Biron. 
     A Mifilifilms production with the financial participation of Radio Canada. (Canadian distributor, Remstar Films. World sales, Rezo Films.)
     Screened: distributor DVD screener, Lisbon, June 10th 2011. 


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