Review: Suzanne Lindon makes a remarkably bold debut with coming-of-age film ‘Spring Blossom’

Suzanne Lindon in “Spring Blossom.”
Suzanne Lindon in the movie “Spring Blossom.”

Suzanne of the French drama “Spring Blossom” is at that awkward age: not a girl, not yet a woman. It’s an age that’s been explored cinematically time and again; just look at the poster hanging in her room for Maurice Pialat’s 1983 film “Á Nos Amours,” starring Sandrine Bonnaire as another teenage Suzanne exploring her sexuality. But what’s different about the Suzanne of “Spring Blossom” is that she’s realized by a teen herself: writer, director and star Suzanne Lindon wrote the film when she was 15 and directed and starred in it at age 19.

Lindon’s youth is remarkable, because her point of view on the experience of the teenage girl is so immediate. But such a confident and self-assured debut would be remarkable for a filmmaker of any age, as “Spring Blossom” is a finely wrought, sensitively felt and artistically bold work.

Suzanne feels out of place with kids her age, and it’s not surprising in the least that she develops a schoolgirl crush on the older Raphaël (Arnaud Valois, perfect dream hunk casting), a stage actor she notices at the local theater. She starts to loiter around his regular haunts, and the two begin a tentative, confusing relationship: it’s more than friendship but not quite romance, though for Suzanne it feels like love.

Lindon’s aesthetic is lyrical and haunting, using a graceful handheld camera and natural light (the cinematography is by Jérémie Attard). Her grasp of visual storytelling is both innate and experimental, using dance and choreographed movement to demonstrate unspoken emotions and unique connections, whether that’s Suzanne dancing in the street or an almost magical realist pas de deux between Suzanne and Raphaël over breakfast. A moment where she sways tenderly with her mother is mirrored later as she sways with him, reminding us yet again of the liminal space she inhabits.

By starring in her own film, Lindon makes her own youth apparent as an artist, as well as the youth of her character, who remains coltish and childlike. Her perspective in the genre of teen coming-of-age films is crucial for this reason; she’s also in league with a new generation of French female filmmakers using cinema to reckon with a culture of romanticizing or sexualizing teenage girls who aren’t equipped to handle the complexities of adult relationships. Lindon proves they are more than ready to add their own voices and experiences to the cultural narrative.

‘Spring Blossom’

In French with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour 13 minutes

Playing: Starts May 21, Laemmle Royal, West L.A.; and Acropolis Cinema at the Lumiere Music Hall, Beverly Hills (Fri.-Sun.); also on Laemmle Virtual Cinema