Sleepy-Eyed French Film Tu Dors Nicole Barely Has the Energy to Get to Its Ending


Shot in inexplicable black-and-white, Tu Dors Nicole follows a listless young woman over a few hot summer days in her Quebec town. Director Stéphane Lafleur sets the mood effectively: You can feel the warm, stale air Nicole’s (Julianne Côté) oscillating fan blows across her stifling basement bedroom, the sandpaper scratch of sheets on hot legs, the oppressive weight of summer making every movement a grand, slow effort. The film moves just as languidly, not bothering with anything so difficult as momentum or stakes. Lafleur loves to close scenes with a long shot of Nicole slowly closing her eyes, as though she’s so exhausted by the effort of keeping her lids open she can’t bear it a moment longer.

There’s little in her life to excite her, though: Nicole lives with her parents, who are away on holiday. She steals clothes from the Goodwill-type store where she works, and spends all her free time with her friend Véronique (Catherine St-Laurent), aimlessly biking. Bored, they decide to plan a vacation to Iceland, but they can’t sustain momentum beyond memorizing some vocabulary and spray-painting boots black.

The dullness is punctuated by ten-year-old Martin (Godefroy Reding), who is deeply in love with Nicole and delivers wise-beyond-his-years philosophic musings in the resonant voice of a middle-aged man. (It’s Alexis Lefebvre’s.) During a babysitting job, Nicole makes her prepubescent charge up as a cowboy; the eyeliner-stippled beard turns small, fine-boned Martin into a blond Conchita Wurst. That’s a welcome absurd note in an otherwise eye-crossingly dull movie that has nothing to say beyond “Life is exhausting.” Nicole can barely work up the nerve to say anything she means, let alone actually get out of town.

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