There’s a beautiful opening shot in Julie Colly’s award-winning, Si Tu T’imagines (Listening Eyes), of a girl’s hand holding an orange aloft in the daytime sun. The teenage girl, Laure (Lilith Grasmug), is dripping fresh orange juice into her eye. Could be medicinal, to make them glisten, to self-harm, for a less oily appearance. I mean, it has you wondering, and it is a fine example of the power of intrigue.
A different form of pensiveness occupies this girl, who might not be in the comfort zone ever so slightly hinted at. Laure paints her toenails, wonders if she heard some rustling in the trees – we too see a figure very briefly. She is soon sunbathing, and tells her father (Hervé Laudière) she might have heard someone in the woodlands. Laure is restless, that’s for sure, as she lays literally poolside, before rolling in; takes a walk through the forestry, and along a long rural road.
Laure is very withdrawn, edgy, nervous perhaps, especially when conversing with other people – which is not often. When she sees a young couple on holiday, she seems as fixated as she was with the young man passing her on the road moments earlier. And Laura becomes a kind of voyeur, quite by accident, when the young couple get passionate among the trees, she does little to move along, but soon closes her eyes.
The couple are hanging out by the pool with her father, when she returns. Laure, as we have long since realized, is completely bored. But with the tedium, feeds her intrigue, and eventually prying into other peoples’ lives. She later sits outside the couple’s vacation place, they are having sex. Laure might be just drawn to the human sounds, a kind of sex education, or just the urge to not be alone.
Her father attempts to engage with her on a number of occasions. There is no sign of bad blood between them, though, in fact they are perfectly comfortable in each others company. The hesitant moments come when he tries to learn more about her. They don’t see each other enough, perhaps, and maybe they should. It’s the location that is Laura’s enemy here, likely a city girl who wouldn’t quarrel about the sun, but the open landscape is not her glass of Coca-Cola.
Taking the young woman’s denim jacket, when looking around their living quarters, does not do her any favors. Nor does it cement further relationship points with her father. Laure’s most unfortunate moment, comes when she is loitering outside the couple’s place again. She is startled by an older woman, actually snooping, who runs off, and the couple come out to find Laura. Of course, it is not how it looks. Or not quite anyway.
When it is announced on the radio, as her father drives her home (or somewhere), that a prowler in the area has been arrested, with several witnesses, there is a silent understanding between the father and daughter. She is not completely off the hook, of course, but her pending innocence is somewhat justified. Her father’s anger and disappointment at Laure, will wain now, and I’m betting he is extremely relieved too.
Earlier in Listening Eyes, when he confronts her over the regrettable behavior, her father, who appears so far to be a relaxed, lenient man, puts his foot down. But rather than scream at her, he shows how perturbed he is through his face, and tells her to do the right thing – apologize to the young couple, and return the jacket.
Without wanting to use the term ‘slice-of-life’, I feel Listening Eyes follows that mantra, in revealing to us a chunk from Laure’s little world. Writer-director, Julie Colly, compels us to make assumptions about the teenager’s life, irregardless of any right or wrongs she might undertake. The girl’s instincts are recognizable to us all, surely.
Young actress, Lilith Grasmug, embodies an authentic bundle of teen nerves and mellow angst. A performance engaging enough to hold the story up, which is nearly all hers. As her father, Hervé Laudière is also pretty commanding, in acting and prowess as a parent. He does a lot with few words (as does Grasmug), which is both commendable and essential in this kind of story-telling.
Colly’s solid direction breathes fresh into the film’s ever-so-slight melancholy. Listening Eyes might be a film about growing up, more than many other films claim to be. Her taut, pondering script, feels true to the nature of distanced family bonds, and that of the surroundings themselves. And the entire 29 minutes is gorgeously shot, amidst the querying teen eye or the raised parental eyebrow, you want to be there somehow.