IYSHH copy



“You have beautiful eyes.”

“…but if you saw his heart!”


What lingers on the soul of the strangers we encounter? What deep darkness lays in wait beneath sweet smiles and bright eyes? Would we run if we knew what demons they were dealing with, what wrongs they were capable of? Or would we empathize and be drawn-in that much deeper.

These are the questions at the heart of a dark and dreamy new film that debuted at TIFF on Tuesday night.

IF YOU SAW HIS HEART is the story of Daniel (Bernal), a gypsy in Marseilles. As the film opens, he is celebrating the marriage of his best friend Costel (Nahuel Pérez). Hoping to properly provide for his new bride, Costel insists that Daniel bring him along on some of the thievery that he commits to make a living. Unfortunately, one such act of hooliganism costs Costel dearly. From then on, Daniel is burdened with his role in Costel’s fate. He hides out in a boarding house, splitting his time carrying out further heists and wallowing in his guilt. It’s there that a potential future and reminder of the past both cross his path, but can such a sinner dedicate his life to a sweet future without confronting the bitter past?

This is the feature debut of TIFF Talent Lab alum Joan Chemla. Her interpretation of this story blends sweet dream and nightmare, aggressive act and melancholy memory. Her technique with a camera may only be bettered by her sense of editorial rhythm. The experience of the narrative may leave some cold (more on that in a moment), but there is no denying the exquisite technical skill of this young filmmaker.

At the TIFF premiere, both star Gael Garcia Bernal and TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey mentioned that Chemla first caught their attention by writing them each a letter. This film is likewise a letter to cinema-goers the world over. It is confessional, amorous, honest, and filled with bold promises. Watchers would be wise to keep this young woman’s note close to their heart, and watch their mailbox for further correspondence.

One’s reaction to IF YOU SAW HIS HEART may depend on how big of a guilt complex they are wired with. This is a film wrapped around one man’s attempt to run from his worst mistake, and his time in a purgatory of his own making. It’s a story where sin begets sin, and there is no clear way out. It’s a film that looks out into the audience and asks them to consider their own sins. For those who feel like their conscience is clear, this film may miss the mark. For those that have misdeeds in their heart…this film will remind them of the solace they truly seek.