Romain Duris did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Thomas Seyr in The Beat That My Heart Skipped.
Well this film, and performance mine some similair thematic material as the last performance and film I covered, Byung-hun Lee in A Bittersweet Life. Both films follow essentially "thugs" who see potentially a different kind of life, while undergoing particularly difficult circumstances as a criminal. The story of Thomas differs from Sun-woo, though in that Thomas's life of crime is more innately intertwined with his life in general since a great deal of it stems from his father (Niels Arestrup), who encourages a life of violence and crime. The early scenes of the film are where we see Thomas in essentially his learned life as he consorts with corrupt men of a similair ilk, and deals with whatever tasks his father might have set for him. Duris wears this life well within his performance conveying the inner tension right in his body language. Duris Thomas this constrained manner, reflecting essentially the ability for violence, even when he is technically just sitting still, there seems to be a possibility for an outburst.
Of course what is notable about Duris's portrayal of Thomas's intensity is very particular. He doesn't quite make it something that is of his very nature of a person as though he was born that way, rather it was something embedded into him. A strange dichotomy but Duris pulls this off with his performance. Duris finds the moments in which that taught violence is forced to come out, Duris portrays the way this rears its head very specifically, which relates directly to who the character really is. Now this is of course whenever there is any sense danger to begin with but it is more than that even in Duris's performance. There is brilliant way he adjusts almost the sort energy that comes from in the moments, as he becomes off putting in a way that he was not just a second before. This is particularly well shown in an early scene with his father, where the moment his father turns to his own questionable nature, Duris conveys Thomas's reaction as a reflection of his father. Again he never suggests a specific intention, but rather makes it a genuine automatic reaction at this point.
There is another side to Thomas that Duris shows to be most obvious when Thomas is investing in his time as a pianist. Thomas is reintroduced to the idea accidentally as he comes across his mother's former manager, as she was also a pianist, who asks Thomas to audition for him. Duris brings a real earnestness to these scenes, though he does not overplay them. What he does is suggest a comfort in these moments which are not readily apparent in the world of his father. Duris makes this something rather unassuming, though quite poignant, as he shows Thomas's interest as straight forward with a real enthusiasm within it. Duris is careful to bring nuance in this enthusiasm though as he so nicely conveys the certain hesitations that are normal to someone unsure of their musical skill. The film proceeds forward as Thomas continues to practice piano in order to be ready for his audition, while dealing with his corrupt business partners as well as his father's downward spiral which only becomes worse due to his own shady connections.
Duris portrays Thomas essentially a man in an emotional limbo of sorts where he is pulled to one side or another depending on the situation. Throughout the film when the situation becomes stressful in almost anyway, even during his time with the piano, Duris portrays the needed visceral reaction in Thomas to this. Duris shows the man falling right upon basically what his father taught him, and Duris does not hold back in revealing just how vicious the man becomes. Duris takes this further than just physical assault, also bringing such venom in his verbal attacks when the situation calls for it. In all this Duris suggests almost a mindlessness about it, in that Thomas never chooses this exactly, instead the way he has been raised often brings him to this point. In contrast when he is allowed to find a bit of solace, whether it is through the piano or just not dealing with the worst side of people for a moment, Duris reveals a better man seeking what appears to be a better life. Duris keeps at the heart of his arc for Thomas, a subtle change. Not in the man entirely, but rather in terms of conveying the self-reflection the character slowly achieves. Duris is careful to show that this technically does not change his actions through the film yet gives sense to this. There's a scene late involving Thomas's father, and Duris brings the very understandable attachment, as Thomas loves his father despite what his lessons have done to him. Duris never brushes off the history of the character, and is rather affecting as he brings the very real conflict in Thomas to life. This is best represented perhaps by his final scene where the two sides of his life are in the same moment, as he must violently resolve a situation just before a piano concert. Duris is powerful by giving the intensity within the violence, yet revealing the devastation in Thomas is now all to aware of what he does, and what he is.