Trendy European setting – check. Sassy, social media-savvy characters – check. A spoiler-free review – check!
When ‘Plan Cœur’ (‘The Hook Up Plan’ in English) first came onto my Netflix screen in December 2018, I was halfway through my year abroad as a teaching assistant in Paris. In one of the many cases where I self-consciously acted like a classic year abroad student, I jumped at the chance to immerse myself in French culture from the comfort of my own tiny studio room.
Set in the beautiful capital city (I felt a particular pleasure whenever I could recognise a specific location), ‘Plan Cœur’ follows friends Elsa, Charlotte and Emilie, all on the verge of turning thirty. Fed up with Elsa’s pining after her ex-boyfriend Max, Charlotte and Emilie secretly hire a male escort to take her on some dates and restore her confidence. Of course, things all go downhill very quickly when the secret gets out – and the friends are still dealing with the aftermath of their romantic and platonic decisions in Series 2, which aired on the 11th of October (my birthday, quelle chance!)
Although I slightly preferred the first, both series of this programme are cleverly aware of the lives and concerns of a 2018/2019 audience – let me show you why…
Showing friendships as how they are, not how they should be
The friendships in ‘Plan Cœur’ – specifically between the three female leads – are really believable and true to life. Their character growth was impressive to watch, shifting from deception and pretence for the sake of their friendship, to accepting their differences and sticking together in spite of them. Frustrating as it was to watch them fall apart, it was also refreshingly real. Seeing your friendships change as you inevitably move in different circles is a hard fact of life to accept, but the way in which ‘Plan Cœur’ deals with this is really reassuring. These women recognise that they don’t have much in common anymore, but they decide to continue supporting each other regardless. All of the lead actresses work well together to create this realistic dynamic, but a special mention has to go to Sabrina Ouazani, who plays Charlotte. Easily the funniest of the three, her loud and cheeky bravado disguises her devastating fear of failure and her feelings for Mathieu.
Using beautiful music to pull together complex emotions
Although music is obviously an important element in any TV programme, I want to mention the soundtrack to ‘Plan Cœur’ as an example of one that perfectly reflects the content of the show. The storyline and its characters are always on the move, living busy lives to distract themselves from emotional turmoil, and so the music is upbeat and punchy. In addition to the catchy club anthems that crop up in the party scenes, the original songs by Frédéric Magnon are phenomenal; when I first heard ‘Amor Ocasional’, played during the emotional cliffhanger of the first series, I was absolutely obsessed. When I searched online to find out whether the track was available yet, I found hundreds of comments (in French, English and several other languages) demanding its official release. This itself is proof that well-chosen music can unite people who feel the emotions it reflects as strongly as you do – a surefire way to keep people talking about a programme.
Exploiting social media to ensure relevancy
Whether we like it or not, social media is largely inescapable in our daily lives. When trying to engage with this, it sometimes seems like ‘Plan Cœur’ is trying too hard: for some, the use of a night out montage told through Instagram stories and scenes involving dating apps borders on cringe. Personally, though, I found these moments really funny and memorable. Seeing the characters posting comments on each other’s social accounts and watching their text conversations come up on screen was visually interesting, but also brought me into their world, something which only this type of media can do. The makers of ‘Plan Cœur’ know how their viewers communicate and, more importantly for them, that anyone with a Twitter account is a potential reviewer of their programme. Consequently, using social media from the start encourages audience interaction and is a clever way to stay relevant.
Allowing insight into another language/culture
Being a student of French who was living in France at the time, watching ‘Plan Cœur’ was a fun and easy way for me to engage with the language and culture of the country. It’s likely that people with an interest in French will be drawn to watching it – however, I don’t see the original language as a barrier at all. Obviously with Netflix, it’s incredibly easy to stick on the subtitles and follow along – but the content of the show also adds to its accessibility. Its characters go through recognisable situations, have common fears and communicate through universal social media platforms. It is this universality that makes the programme so enjoyable and suitable for those who are fluent in French, just starting to learn or who have no knowledge of it at all. That said, I hope this story of romance will encourage more people to take an interest in the language of love.
So there you have it: a funny, surprising, outrageous and sweet show that takes a different look at love, with things going wrong much faster and more dramatically than you might expect. Whatever you watch ‘Plan Cœur’ for – be it the music, the characters or the roller-coaster romance – I, for one, think it will be time well spent. Amusez-vous bien (have fun)!
Featured image Copyright Netflix.