“Nicole, you’re sleeping…”
I admire a film that is able to linger and I’ve read enough scripts to know that there is a difference between filling up scenes with mindless dialogue and slowing the action down in a way that’s inherently more lifelike. In fact, I now have an increased fascination with the films that don’t rely so much on plot points at all but characters and the everyday situations that they encounter. Because, if I’m honest, everyday situations often make up most of my life and they are most relatable to me. They’re the stories that feel the most genuine.
Just looking at Stephane Lafleur’s Canadian drama, Tu dors Nicole, a little bit of the mundane is evident. Sorting racks in a clothing store. Lazy afternoon bike rides. Lifeless neighborhood streets. Long summer days with the sound of crickets outside the window. Hot nights where you can hardly keep your eyes clamped shut due to the miserable heat that keeps you tossing and turning. It might all seem of little consequence and in many ways it is. But in the modern arena where every film must be the next big thing, the greatest spectacle imaginable and so on, it’s actually quite refreshing when someone dares to tone it down a notch.
There are some oddly weird moments throughout the film. Namely, Martin, a boy who has the vocal range of a 30-year-old man. And the traces of harp music whenever something especially enchanting comes to the fore. Then, there are the closing images of water spouting off into the atmosphere.
However, what’s at the core of Nicole is a story of adolescence coming into adulthood. It’s not so much a coming of age narrative as emblematic of that period of transition. And if Nicole had the fragments of a prototypical plotline it would be this.
The eponymous young woman (Julianne Cote) has recently graduated college and is working a menial job. Her parents have gone away for a little vacation leaving her behind with a list of tasks to complete in their absence. She would have the house to herself if it wasn’t for her older brother who is always jamming away with his bandmates in the living room and all throughout their house. Their backbeat is constantly reverberating through Nicole’s life. She hardly gets any peace and quiet.
And yet even in the tranquil moments, our protagonist still seems a bit melancholy. Mini golf isn’t as fun as it used to be. A trip to Iceland is more fun to plan for than it is to actually go through with. Nicole gets in a row with her best friend. She loses her job after taking a few articles of clothing home with her. But life continues like it always has.
In this case, black and white is not simply an aesthetic choice but an appropriate palette to reflect the underlying tone of this film. There is a listlessness, an apathy to Nicole’s life at the moment. The thing is it’s due to nothing in particular, at least nothing spoken aloud or seen overtly onscreen, but like life, it just is.
Our main hint comes from the title itself. Could it be that Nicole is asleep? She cannot sleep at night, because, perhaps she does her sleeping during the day–going through the motions without a great deal of purpose — without a goal to drive her. We’ve all been there. Maybe even a few moments ago. Growing up in this fashion is not always all it’s cracked up to be.
The question to ask at the end of this particular narrative is this: Have things changed? Not really. But so it is with the vicissitude of life. There will be highs and lows. Moments of vibrant colors and grayish doldrums. Quarter life crises and galvanizing flashbulb moments. Still, we keep on living, latching onto what gives our confusions and doubts even a shard of meaning. We aren’t meant to live life asleep.