Besides being associated with careless joys and romantic exploits, part
of summer’s seductive appeal is that, assuming one gets time off from daily
responsibilities, it provides an opportunity to reassess and recharge. During
this usually warm and relaxed time of he year people are expected to be more
active, to spend time outside, and to utilize their time enjoying activities
that their lifestyles don’t always allow them to.
Vacation sounds fun indeed,
but when you are a young twenty-something struggling to find a clear path for
the rest of your life, summer is more of a difficult transitioning period than
a celebratory season. Once the fall comes reality will be there waiting to make
its presence known. With unassuming intelligence and modest imagery, Stéphane Lafleur‘s imaginative Quebecois feature “Tu Dors Nicole” (You’re Sleeping, Nicole) encompasses such
feelings of youthful uncertainty.
Relishing each day she gets to spend home alone while her
parents are out of town, Nicole (Julianne Côté) is a young woman without much going on in her life
and in desperate need of purpose. Her suburban neighborhood lacks excitement
and new faces to be enticed by. Most days, when she is not working at the local
second hand clothing store, Nicole rides her bike and eats ice cream with her
best friend Véronique to fight the ravaging heat. In turn, Véronique (Catherine St-Laurent), who is clearly the
more colorful and friendly of the two, works in an office for an elderly man in order to
afford repairing her true love – her car. It all seems like monotonous simplicity
until Nicole decides to use her newly acquired credit card to pay for them to
take a trip to the remote Scandinavian nation of Iceland.
To her surprise, however, her older brother Rémi (Marc-André Grondin) has decided
to stay at their parents’ house as well, and he’s brought his band along to
work on songs for an upcoming album. Instantly Nicole’s plans for a few peaceful
days before heading out on her adventure have vanished. She needs to get
out of this quiet, unnamed town before she blows up. Magnifying her unbearable situation, she also suffers from
insomnia and often wanders the streets at night to occupy her restless mind.
Ingenuously written to elicit thoughtful significance from
what could be perceived as mundane incidents, “Tu Dors Nicole” is elegantly
laced with magical realism that intensify the delicate dreamy atmosphere. In a
collection of curiously comedic assets, an indelible highlight is Nicole’s
interaction with 10-year-old Martin (Godefroy Reding), a precocious boy with the baritone voice
of a seasoned adult man.
Shamelessly outspoken about his feelings for her,
Martin tries to convince Nicole that is their destiny to be together. These
moments are strangely charming and surreal at once. Lafleur is clever at
including other elements along these lines, including whimsical sound effects to denote the endless possibilities his world offers,
to make his audience question whether Nicole is walking in a dream or awake in
a fantastical reality.
Although certainly not interested in Martin’s adorable
advances, Nicole has her own unresolved love issues with and ex-boyfriend and
is also tempted to pursue the mysterious JF (Francis La Haye), one of her brother’s band mates. Everything
that’s happening around her is part of growing up, and she is not ready to confront
how quickly everything is changing even when it seems to remain static. Is not
that she refuses to accept the inevitable obstacles of adulthood, but this
summer has tested her loyalties and goals all at once.
Shot on 35mm by Sara Mishara, the film makes use of familiar
surroundings and renders them interesting in a minimalist manner. Complementing
this is Côté’s tranquil demeanor and almost imperceptible confidence that don’t
expose much about how Nicole is feeling, but encourages the viewer to try to
find out more about her. Also noteworthy is the way Lafleur, who is also a
musician himself, employs the music that exist organically in is story,
specifically from Rémi’s band, and the sounds of nature to score his work.
Reminiscent of Baumbach’s “Frances Ha,” both in tone and in
its use of evocative black-and-white cinematography in a modern setting,
Lafleur’s film might come across as slight or unchallenging for those who seek
evident philosophical statements or intricate plot twists. But it’s exactly in
that unpretentiousness and effortless complexity that “Tu Dors Nicole” becomes
more efficient at being memorable and insightful. Just like waking up from a delightful
sleep-induced fantasy in which some sequences aren’t fully coherent, but
knowing all them say something profound about you.
“Tu Dors Nicole” is now playing in NYC at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and opens in Miami Beach on June 12th at the Miami Beach Cinematheque