On the face of it, the subject of this film seems too improbable and such a bizarre juxtaposition of themes that you can understand why it would be easily over-looked. However, this is quality piece of drama that is easily of the same calibre of other gangster films such as "Goodfellas" although there are echoes of the excellent "Long Good Friday" in the way that the criminals eventually bite of more than they can chew.
As someone who has been exploring French cinema over the last few years, I quickly came to the conclusion that Romain Duris is probably the most compelling actor of his generation and that the comparisons with Robert De Niron are not without foundation. Whilst films like "Paris" and "Moliere" are exceptional, lightweight comedies, "The beat that my heart skipped" is essentially a film about small time criminals with Duris playing a character who has become tired of following in his father's footsteps, wishing instead to pick up his talent for playing the piano. Unfortunately, the father has a new girlfriend and is looking towards his son, played by Duris, to step up to the mantle to regain a grip on the protection rackets he has been running. Essentially, the film then concentrates upon Duris' increased lack of enthusiasm for evicting illegal immigrants who can no longer afford to pay their rent and increasingly takes solice in resurrecting his piano studies with a a gentle and sympathetic teacher with a view to getting a place in a conservatory. The film chronicles the increasing conflict in interest but rapidly moves up a few gears when we learn that his father's criminal "empire" is strictly small fry when compared to the Russian gangsters who have moved on to his patch. Rather than descending into a blood bath, the film takes on the air of a tragedy as the father failing to realise the gravity of the situation with the son struggling to balance his musical talent with his criminal past which refuses to allow his to escape.
Unlikely as the plot my seem, this is a exceptional film which is totally compelling right up to the conclusion. For me, this is easily one of the top five French films I have seen working both as a piece of drama and as a thriller. However, Duris' performance as the protagonist ranks is probably amongst the best screen performances you will have seen in recent years in any language. One of the essential pieces of cinema of the first decade of the 2000's.