I watched this film recently for the third or fourth time because -- despite an unsatisfying ending -- it has a lot to offer. (In French its title is De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté, made in 2005.) It's apparently a remake of an American film, Fingers (1978), which I've never seen.
Like many of the 'parvenu' narratives, it's another story in which the protagonist's two worlds clash, but here the two worlds are more about modes of living than exactly class, though that's not unconnected...
'Thomas' (Romain Duris, excellent in the role) is a young man whose now-deceased mother was a concert pianist. His father, still very much in the picture, is a moneyed thug, and Tom has followed him into a life of violence and brutality in shady real estate dealing.
Tom is not a likeable character, and the film sets this out very clearly. Yet when he glimpses the possibility of changing direction -- becoming a pianist like his mother -- you can't help identifying with him and hoping he will come good through music. There's a strong feeling of potential sensitivity and power of expression barely contained in this taciturn and often sullen individual.
But it's never that easy to switch tracks, and the patterns and entanglements of the life Tom has led till now pose a dramatic challenge to his 'ambition'. Violence is not easily left behind...
The last section of the movie (to me) feels tacked-on, but the rest of it is still worth watching. I have also caught part of an earlier movie by the same director, Read My Lips (Sur mes lèvres, 2001), that had me on the edge of my seat -- again, a clash-of-two-worlds story -- but I've not managed to get a copy so as to watch the parts I missed.
The director, Jacques Audiard, has also made the more recent film A Prophet (Un prophète, 2009), which I missed at the cinema -- will have to watch out for the DVD.