Writer and Director: Suzanne Lindon
Closing this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, Spring Blossom marks the directorial debut of French actor, Suzanne Lindon. Lindon takes inspiration from her own teenage years to tell the story of Suzanne and Raphael. Suzanne, aged 16, is bored with her life. Meeting friends after school, attending parties – Suzanne is not unpopular, but about to enter the next phase of her life, she needs something more.
On her way home from school, she walks past the local theatre. She spots an older man in his early thirties, sitting at a table outside. He’s sat alone and nursing a drink: they briefly make eye contact. Lindon’s Suzanne – played to gauche perfection throughout – becomes obsessed with catching another glimpse of him. Spring Blossom captures beautifully how deeply and quickly a teenage crush can take hold. Suzanne discovers the man – Raphael – is an actor taking part in a touring production. Played by Arnaud Valois, Raphael is becoming increasingly disillusioned with his career. Suzanne sneaks into the theatre and watches the company at rehearsal. It is clear that Raphael is not enjoying the play or his part in it. Suzanne hangs around the stage door afterwards, and she and Raphael finally meet.
What begins is a love story with all the familiar components. Raphael takes the lead at first; we see him through Suzanne’s eyes – the sophisticated, older man – Suzanne is utterly fascinated by his handsome, urbane exterior. But as the relationship develops, the balance alters as they become more vulnerable with each other. We begin to see Raphael and Suzanne on a more equal footing; as two characters marked by the same feelings. They are each bored of their lives and unsure of what lies ahead. With the age gap between Suzanne and Raphael, Lindon is very careful to depict this as a gently lyrical romance. What could have become a deeply problematic storyline, is instead an exploration of two people meeting each other at the perfect time.
Spring Blossom is scattered with references to French New Wave Cinema, and Lindon nods to Francois Truffaut’s dance scene in Bande a Part, as Suzanne and Raphael sit at a cafe table. Raphael wants to share with Suzanne the music featured in his play – the only part of the production he actually enjoys. The music begins, and they both sway and move in choreographed unison. Lost in the music, this is how Lindon articulates their physical connection. Dancing again at the theatre, on an empty stage, this moment lifts them out of their boredom and frustration.
The influence of New Wave on Spring Blossom is profound. Lindon’s calm, observational style echoes the work of directors like Eric Rohmer. Prioritising thought over action, the film’s naturalistic feel serves to heighten the moments where realism gives way to fantasy. Nothing feels tacked on: the characters are so finely delineated, there is an intimacy created with the audience that keeps us absorbed to the final minute.
Age-gap romances have been told numerous times in film, and with varying degrees of success. What Lindon does, and does superbly, is to look at what binds the couple together. It is their youth and uncertainty that draws them to each other. This is not another tale of the sophisticate awakening the ingénue – Suzanne and Raphael’s relationship is more complicated than that. There is a fragility in Spring Blossom that the film doesn’t shy away from – and the story becomes a much richer experience because of it.
The Glasgow Film Festival here runs from 24 February until 7 March 2021