We’ve all had moments when we’ve felt out of place or no real connection with our peer groups or the circles we move in. That is what’s at the heart of writer/director/actor Suzanne Lindon‘s directorial debut “Spring Blossom.” It is a story about finding connections and friendship in usual places and people.
The film opens with a 16-year-old Suzanne surrounded by friends — other teens her age — but she seems to be elsewhere and not really there are at all — physically, sure, but mentally she has checked out. Suzanne is a somewhat reserved girl, but she’s not a loner nor does she seem to be an outsider in the normal sense of the word. In all interactions with people her age, she seems slightly out of place. She is bored with her routine and her friends. One day as she is walking home from school, she catches eyes with a man smoking on the corner in front of the local theatre. It is at that moment that she feels the urge for something different in her life and becomes obsessed with the man. She goes to a house party that evening to try and experience the freedom and life of her fellow schoolmates — to see if this is what she’s been missing — but she seems like a fish out of water even as she has some fleeting moments when she seems to be enjoying herself and acting her age. As she leaves the party, she sees the man at a cafe as they catch eyes again.
From there, Suzanne makes a point of walking past the theatre and cafe in hopes of seeing him and catching his eye. It turns out that the man, Raphael (Arnaud Valois), is an actor in a production at the theatre and he too is bored and unsatisfied with his life at the moment. They finally have their “meet cute” moment after he finds Suzanne watching him outside of the theatre. It seems a little odd calling it a “meet cute” with the age difference between the two (Raphael is in his mid-30s) and it leaves you to wonder if this is going to turn into a “Lolita” type film or something more benign. There’s even the obligatory “intimate moment with the furniture” after she finally meets her object of obsession for the first time. But there is a modesty in their relationship — they don’t rush it, nor is it a relationship built on lust — it’s more of a platonic relationship. From there, Suzanne no longer wants to be a girl, she wants to be a woman — the type that this man would fall for. But there are reminders that she is just a girl, like when Raphael comes to pick her up on his scooter but she says “her parents would kill her if she got on that.” We are lightly again made aware that they are not both adults. As their relationship blossoms and Raphael brings Suzanne more into his world, the two begin to fall for each other as they realize that they are just what the other needed to fight off their ennui — even if only briefly.
“Spring Blossom” is shot and captured in such a way that we are immersed in the newness and young innocence of these teenage years — it is on the cusp of adulthood but still life is simple and exhilarating. The film and Lindon do a good job of capturing that sense of melancholy of a girl’s early teenage years — you’re not a girl but not yet a woman — and find it hard to navigate the two worlds without immersing yourself in them both. We see this in the more adult encounters Suzanne has with Raphael which are then juxtaposed to her free-spirited breakout into dance once she leaves him. There are a couple of “dance” sequences in the film in which the pair are synchronized as one with each filling the void for the other. It almost has somewhat of a “La La Land” type feel to it.
The film is tender and sensitive and never crosses the line into making it awkward as we watch this relationship between an older man and a young girl. They are just looking for something to free themselves from the monotony and boredom. Despite her naivety, she seduces Raphael and makes him fall for her, but in the end, Suzanne comes to realize that she really has only fallen in love with an idea, not necessarily Raphael, and she actually longs for the life of her fellow 16-year-old friends. So she ends the relationship. This realization could have been fleshed out a little more to further the story. But, although not filled with drama or overly romantic, the film succeeds in capturing a moment in time in the lives of two individuals looking for something new as they escape the realities of their respective worlds. It’s just missing a spark. And at only 20-years-old, with a little more practice and experience, Lindon has a bright future in telling endearing and relatable stories.