A Family Affair

Chiara Mastroianni talks about her new film 3 Hearts.

Chiara Mastroianni and Benoît Poelvoorde

The French director Benoît Jacquot’s film 3 Hearts, which arrives stateside March 13, is about a love triangle, so not everyone gets a happy ending. “I really wanted all the characters to live the love stories they wanted,” star Chiara Mastroianni says, calling from her home in Paris. “But it’s impossible.”

In a provincial French town, Benoît (Benoît Poelvoorde) meets Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) after missing his train back to Paris. There’s an instant attraction, and they spend the night wandering the streets of Sylvie’s hometown, parting the next morning with a promise to reconnect a week later in Paris. After their plan goes awry, Sylvie reunites with an ex-lover in the U.S., and Benoit, a tax lawyer, marries his new client, Sophie (Chiara Mastroianni). The twist is that, unbeknownst to Benoit, Sophie is Sylvie’s sister. When Sylvie returns to France for Sophie’s wedding and sees Benoit for the first time since the night they met, they pick up where they left off.

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Benoît Poelvoorde in “3 Hearts.” Courtesy of Cohen Media Group.

The film, which was shot over eight weeks in the French countryside, was a sort of family affair—both onscreen and off. While Catherine Deneuve, who plays the sisters’ mother, is Mastroianni’s mother in real life it was the first time Mastroianni had worked with Gainsbourg. “We met a few times when we were kids through our families,” Mastroianni explains. (Charlotte, of course, is the daughter of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg.) “It’s funny though, when you do a film in which you have any family, it creates a link. Right away, I always get this feeling of familiarity with the actor or actress who’s playing a family member.”

Deneuve even took on her maternal role off camera. “Since the story takes place in Catherine’s house, she also decided the menu,” Mastroianni recalled. “She would go to the crew and say, ‘So for dinner tomorrow I’m thinking French fries, and red meat.’” She laughed. “When you have to eat all day long for one dinner scene it’s a nightmare!” And the wine? “Oh my gosh, no, it was raisin juice!”