If one Nicole caught headlines earlier in the festival at the Palais with Olivier Dahan’s much-maligned bioflop Grace of Monaco (2014), better notices should find themselves in line for another Nicole a short walk down the Cannes Croisette as part of Directors’ Fortnight. That’s where Stéphane Lafleur’s Tu dors Nicole (2014) premièred at Cannes, a French-Canadian, idiosyncratic, Frances Ha-like comedy of an aimless 22-year-old just out of college, gorgeously shot in 35mm black and white, and very funny. It’s a sweltering summer in suburban Quebec, and the parents of Nicole (Julianne Côté) are away. She’s too old to still be living at home, but conversely has nowhere else to go.
Nicole’s only option is to hang out with her friend Véronique (Catherine St-Laurent), with whom she watches movies or goes for purposeless cycle rides, but things turn awkward when her older brother and his band disturb the peace after they arrive to record new songs at the house. Soon Nicole’s first credit card arrives in the post and, presumably misunderstanding the connotations of doing so, they book an impromptu trip to Iceland, if for no other reason than to do “nothing somewhere else”. Perhaps an impending, if temporary, move away will solve all Nicole’s problems, but instead they start to be drawn to her. The aimless, wandering of this twenty-something is a little kooky but rarely unfunny, and Côté flourishes as a woman positively drained by the prospect of having to move forward at all.
As things start to go against her – such as an awkward meeting with her now-engaged ex – Nicole starts to understand that her role was never entirely passive, and it’s strangely affecting. When a man she fancies in the band ends up with someone else, whatever’s bubbling comes to the surface in a wild, unexpected moment of magical realism. The only person who seems to be what she’s looking for in life is – much to her chagrin – 10-year-old Martin (Godefroy Reding), who Nicole used to babysit and whose voice has prematurely dropped several octaves. In a scene-stealing role he has no problem telling her his feelings for her in a grandiose “I’ll wait for you,” fashion. Like a gawping mirror image of her, he knows exactly what he wants. The black and white photography by Sara Mishara is crisp and sharp, and Côté is a great find in her first lead role. The hipster vibe means Tu dors Nicole will likely be championed by fans of Baumbach’s Frances Ha, but this is more refreshingly skew-eyed and unpredictably perceptive.
The 67th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 14-25 May 2014. For more Cannes coverage, simply follow this link.