Spring Blossom

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Spring Blossom
"Artfully confected and directed with a light touch, this is a layered yet knowingly insubstantial creation, un amour choux." | Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

Suzanne (Suzanne Lindon) likes to read, but she doesn't find much time to read poetry. Neither does Raphaël (Arnaud Valois). He is 20 and working as an actor. She is 16 and she passes the theatre every day on her way home from school, lingering when she sees him there. Both are bored with the monotony of their routines. Raphaël wants to perform in a different play. Suzanne wants to engage with the drama of adult life.

A story about a teenage girl falling for an older man is such a cliché, especially in French cinema, that one expects the worst - that is, until one learns that this film was written by Lindon herself at the age of 15 and that she, at 20, is the director. Furthermore, she is acutely aware of Raphaël's youth as well as that of her own character. There is blundering on both sides as the actor becomes aware of his admirer, joining her at the café where she drinks grenadine and lemonade through a straw. The camera lingers as the cool red liquid is drawn up between her flushed lips, as it dwells on her sculpted face, her adolescent awkwardness; and yet something in the tone is subtly different. There's an awareness about her that the male gaze has persistently overlooked. She's alert to her own contradictions, and although the camera doesn't frame Raphaël in the same way, we see her eyes doing so.

Copy picture

Sex is neither here nor there in this delicately constructed tale. It may well happen (the age of consent in France is 15), but it doesn't seem to be why either party is doing this. Lindon has shaken free of French cinema's cherished illusion that sex and love are aspects of the same thing. Far more pertinent in this tale is the search for meaning and for a means to engage with the substance of life. Ultimately, Suzanne can no more find it in a 20-year-old that Raphaël can in a teenager, but that, the film suggests, is alright. Romance doesn't have to be the be all and end all to have meaning.

Orbiting these two characters are a cluster of older people who might traditionally be seen as authority figures: Suzanne's parents, Raphaël's director and assorted older colleagues. They display kindness and affection but have very little meaningful impact; Suzanne has little reason to heed them. She is alive in the moment, not yet connected with the wider world in all its complexity. We get a sense of the freedom of youth, though this may be the very reason for her frustration, communicated in shifting shoulders and sullen pouts. Caught in the bright sunshine, exposed in her incompleteness. she seeks the shade.

Artfully confected and directed with a light touch, this is a layered yet knowingly insubstantial creation, un amour choux. Its sweetness will beguile you but you'll be left feeling, as perhaps Suzanne does, as if there were nothing really there at all; certainly not the meal that men have made of such affairs. Enjoy it for what it is and ask no more.

Reviewed on: 27 Feb 2021
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Spring Blossom packshot
A bored teenager finds herself torn between the love of an older man and her adolescence.

Director: Suzanne Lindon

Writer: Suzanne Lindon

Starring: Arnaud Valois, Frédéric Pierrot, Dominique Besnehard, Suzanne Lindon, Rebecca Marder, Philippe Uchan, Florence Viala, Françoise Widhoff, Raymond Aquaviva, Arthur Giusi

Year: 2020

Runtime: 73 minutes

Country: France


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