Don’t mention Frances Ha. Don’t mention Frances Ha. Don’t mention Frances Ha.
It’s not too often that a film like Tu dors Nicole get made, but when they do, people take notice. Why? I guess because they’re different. We don’t get many black and white movies to begin with, which gives them an inherent reason to garner interest, but then there’s also how they’re about aimlessness. Their style mimics this idea. Not a lot happens in terms of plot — things often feel like they’re happening for the sake of it — because the film is about that aimless feeling.
Some people — I often include myself among them — struggle greatly with feeling bored while watching these types of movies. At least, the aimless part; I kind of love films shot in black and white. They can often be boring, and even if you completely “get” what they’re going for, that doesn’t excuse the complete lack of plot, development, or just stuff happening on-screen. For some, these movies are wonderfully entertaining. For others, they’re torturous, regardless of how beautiful they are or how strong the acting is.
Tu dors Nicole is a film just like this, coming from Quebec, and is essentially French-Canada’s answer to Frances Ha. Oops, I did it. Well, I made it a couple of paragraphs through the review without bringing up Frances Ha, so at least there’s that. But, seriously: B&W, aimless, young female protagonist who doesn’t quite know what to do with life? It’s Frances Ha again, but in French and with a slightly younger protagonist. Next time, let’s set it in Norway with a 15-year-old. Why? I don’t even know, okay?
23-year-old Nicole (Julianne Côté) is left at home over the summer while her parents are on vacation. She works at a consignment store, she hangs around with her best friend, Véronique (Catherine St-Laurent), and neglects to water the garden or clean the pool. She doesn’t want adult responsibilities. Just look at the way she handles getting a credit card. She tells Véronique that no thanks are necessary after buying her friend an ice cream cone. It’s free, she says.
The entire film consists primarily of Nicole hanging around her town, often with Véronique, until they have a falling out. Nicole’s brother, Rémi (Marc-André Grondin), also shows up, with his band, because he’s in a band. That doesn’t liven things up, either. The film just stays meandering and dull. It has a couple of funny moments, a little bit of genuine insight, introspection — and everything that comes along with that — but it’s not enough to keep things interesting.
Tu dors Nicole is a very beautiful film. The black and white photography is stunning, and I almost want to recommend it — even if you’re not someone who likes these kinds of films — simply because of how pretty it is. Even if you’re not engaged by the plot or characters, you can at least appreciate the cinematography. That’s … something a lot of boring movies don’t have going for them, so at least one can appreciate director Stéphane Lafleur’s eye for detail.
The acting is also good. Julianne Côté endears herself to us within just a few scenes, and if she was put through a story that involved more than wandering around town, or her house, we’d probably enjoy our time with her more. All of the supporting cast is up to the task, too. It’s harder to evaluate the dialogue in a film you have to watch via subtitles — and, thus, harder to evaluate the acting — but there didn’t seem anything off with any of the performances. Oh, but here’s a free tip: if you’re shooting a black and white film, use yellow subtitles, not white. There are lines in Tu dors Nicole that are hard to read because they’re presented to us as white-on-white.
If you’re someone who likes films about young adults that meanders around, essentially plotless, because it’s mimicking its leading character’s state of mind, then you’ll enjoy Tu dors Nicole. If you find these films boring, then you’re not going to like it. You’ll be able to appreciate its beautiful imagery and its strong acting, but that’s not quite enough to warrant a recommendation.