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JDIFF 2015: Tu Dors Nicole (You’re Sleeping Nicole) // The Dark Horse

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Tu Dors Nicole (You’re Sleeping Nicole)


Tu dors Nicole

Tu Dors Nicole was a charming droll surreal arthouse film about a young woman at a crossroads in her life. Nicole (Julianne Côté) has the house to herself for the summer, her parents are away and her brother is nowhere to be found. Nicole invites her best friend Veronique (Catherine St-Laurent) around, but boredom soon sets in and the aimlessness of everyday, which she previously relished, soon becomes a problem as does the heatwave that’s giving her insomnia. When the brother (Marc-André Grondin) arrives home with his band in tow everything around Nicole seems to change.

The film’s subject matter and the fact it’s shot in black and white has led to comparisons with Frances Ha, however this film has its own thing going on and some really funny surreal edges to it, particularly Nicole’s ten year old suitor Martin. Possibly like Frances Ha, you’ll either fall for its charms or could find it all a bit tedious but you really shouldn’t. Thankfully while the film is about aimlessness, the direction and the editing are quite sharp, precise and unlike the film’s protagonists, very focused. Definitely worth watching.

Director: Stéphane Lafleur
Year: 2014
Country of Origin: Canada
Duration: 93 minutes
Writers: Valérie Beugrand-Champagne, Stéphane Lafleur
Cast: Julianne Côté, Catherine St-Laurent, Marc-André Gronin


The Dark Horse


the dark horse

Completely blown away by Cliff Curtis’s performance as Genesis Potini, a real life chess prodigy who has unfortunately spent most of his life in and out of psychiatric wards. When Gen is admitted to one again and has no one else to contact, he gets in touch with his long lost brother who really doesn’t want anything to do him but takes him home anyway. There Gen is met by his brother’s fellow violent gang members and a nephew he’s never met, Mana (James Rolleston). Gen decides he needs to take up the wards’ advice to focus on something positive and offers himself to a local chess club for troubled or poor kids and his help is very hesitantly accepted. He then sets his sights on getting them ready for a big chess tournament up in Auckland.

The film then moves into the overly familiar territory of mentor/student genre but does makes it feel as fresh as possible. While there are obviously major obstacles for all the characters to overcome, particularly Gen, it never feels schmaltzy, sentimental or forced even when we end up in the tournament. It somehow manages to mix Maori legend, chess, violent gangs, mental illness, drama and comedy seamlessly. It’s beautifully shot and takes it time telling the story properly. It also boasts some great supporting performances, Rolleston is great as Mana, the nephew being groomed for gang life, and from Wayne Hapi (I genuinely can’t get over he was making his film debut) as Gen’s brother Ariki. But Curtis really is this movie, it’s a perfectly judged performance, particularly scenes where his mental illness comes to the fore. It’s the kind of thing Hollywood tries to make every year and turn into a heartwarming story and gets horribly wrong, but that writer director James Napier Robertson (previously a Red DinoThunder Power Ranger, no really) thankfully gets spot on and gives us a thoughtful, gritty, and at times melancholic but rewarding film.

Writer-Director: James Napier Robertson
Year: 2014
Country of Origin: New Zealand
Duration: 124 miutes
Cast: Cliff Curtis, James Roleston, Kirk Torance