Multi-hyphenate Suzanne Lindon has Cesar-winning actors Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain as parents, and knew from a young age she wanted to find her way into performing in film world on her own terms, and by her own merits. She started writing Spring Blossom, (originally titled Seize Printemps, which means 16 Spring in French) at the age of 15, as a way to create a strong lead character for herself as actor. In 2019, she decided to direct the work as well.
Her film, which was borne out of a curiosity around her own boredom with people her age, was chosen as an official selection at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival, but wasn’t screened because of the pandemic. It is now releasing worldwide. The story centers on teenaged Suzanne (played by Lindon), who has a rather charmed life and a happy family, but finds herself bored and disenchanted by her peers. She meets 35 year old actor Raphaël (Arnaud Valois), who has also lost interest in his own life experiences. These two misfits form a bond and fall in love.
Most people might find the premise for this film uncomfortable, given there has been so much press and so many revelations recently about older men grooming and ultimately sexually abusing girls, both inside Hollywood and out. Viewers may feel angst or enervation watching Spring Blossom, believing it is only a matter of time before the relationship gets physical and, by extension, damaging and dark. Rest assured, this is not that story. This story is about two people who are trapped in a vortex of ennui, and how they pull each other out. Their interactions remain chaste, and Suzanne unquestionably has agency and makes considered, smart decisions, even when facing the pain of love.
The ways in which writer/director Lindon reveals 16 year old character Suzanne’s joy and growing attachment to Raphaël, and all he stands for, are inventive and sweet. So, too, is how she shows their connection. Lindon, a dancer from the age of 3, used dances — one performed by Suzanne, the others by Suzanne and Raphaël together — to express their emotions and the bond growing between them. Her lifelong dance teacher acted as choreographer for the film, creating clear, uncomplicated movements that never get in their own way.
Perhaps some will find the way that Lindon expresses Suzanne and Raphaël’s isolation, and the alienation that brings them together, a bit facile. There are ways to show both through action and dialogue, rather than long shots of the lead characters alone even as they are surrounded by people, but that is a choice that filmmaker Lindon made with eyes wide open. Whether she’ll make similar choices in her 3rd or 5th movie, only time will tell. I appreciated much of it, but would have preferred to see a bit more of their characters developed through interaction, rather than the lack of it.
Ultimately, Suzanne’s experience falling in love with Raphaël affirms that she can create more in her own life apart from him, even within the context of her friends and family. It is in that simple discovery that the coming-of-age element of the story resides. This young female lead is the captain of her own fate. She intuits what she wants, and what is right and healthy for her, and she does so from a position of strength. The audience just gets to stand by as witness as she works it all out for herself. That is what makes writer/performer/director Suzanne Lindon’s Spring Blossom unique and, in its way, beautifully authentic on a level rarely captured on film.
4 out of 5 stars.