Suzanne Lindon writes, directs and stars in her impressive debut feature Spring Blossom (Seize Printemps), which was part of the special 2020 Cannes Film Festival Official Selection and releases in select U.S. theaters May 21 via KimStim Films after a European run. The daughter of French film actors Sandrine Kiberlain and Vincent Lindon, she wrote the screenplay when she was just 15, and her authentic perspective shines through this tale of teenage romantic obsession.
Lindon plays a 16-year-old schoolgirl in Paris, also named Suzanne, who lives with her liberal parents (Florence Viala and Frédéric Pierrot) and sociable sister (Rebecca Marder). Suzanne is regarded as an oddball in the family — they’re visibly surprised when she goes out to a party. Once there, she’s bored by her friends swigging booze, and uninterested in the boys her age. Dreamer Suzanne is looking for something outside of her relatively parochial realm. Then, she spots him: Raphael (Arnaud Valois), a 35-year-old actor who’s performing at a nearby theater.
At first, she watches Raphael from afar, feeding off the drama when his scooter breaks down. She sneaks into the theater to watch rehearsals, where his director demands that he act like a tree. It’s here that Lindon’s background begins to show: she has a keen eye for the absurd details and rituals of the performing arts. Later, at a social event, she’s cornered by a set designer, who explains his job in patronizing detail, blind to her disinterest. There’s an unspoken gender dynamic here that Lindon communicates with wry, understated humor.
While Spring Blossom has amusing moments, its overall tone is more whimsical and romantic; it also has a tight 73-minute running time. Lindon captures the awkwardness of a shy teenager who’s so smitten that she forces herself to talk to her crush. It’s a gripping moment that leads to a hesitant romance, all the more refreshing for being relatively chaste — from what we see on screen, at least. This strikes a different tone to your typical sexual awakening drama, and it’s also notable for the absence of cellphones and social media. Along with assured direction, strong cinematography and the Parisian setting, this aids comparisons with classic European cinema.
Lindon also recalls musicals as her character dances down the center of the symmetrical street, a spring in her step. Other playful stylistic touches edge into dreamlike fantasy: sitting in a café, she and Raphael move in choreographed unison as she listens to classical music on his headphones. The boundaries of reality and fantasy are now in question. Is he actually dancing to the whims of Suzanne — the character’s — imagination?
Assuming Raphael to be entirely real, his character is enigmatic — it’s left to the audience to divine his exact intentions and emotions. And they will probably have different interpretations: it’s easy to question the motives of this 35-year-old befriending an innocent 16-year-old. But Lindon’s character is no victim, and as a writer-director she feels completely in control. If this is the blossoming of her career, I can’t wait to see it in full bloom.