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CANNES 2024 Critics’ Week

Review: Julie Keeps Quiet


- CANNES 2024: Young Belgian filmmaker Leonardo van Dijl’s first feature film paints an intimate and brilliantly executed portrait of a young female athlete faced with a painful decision

Review: Julie Keeps Quiet
Tessa Van den Broeck in Julie Keeps Quiet

Leonardo van Dijl first turned heads in the international arena in 2020 with his short film Stéphanie, which followed in the footsteps of a very young gymnast and which saw him selected in competition in the Cannes Film Festival. He’s returning with Julie Keeps Quiet [+see also:
interview: Leonardo van Dijl
film profile
, another intimate and sensitive portrait of a young sportswoman struggling with the complex games of domination which high-level sport can involve, and this time round it’s the Critics’ Week competition which will be playing host to his movie.

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Julie is the star player in a upmarket tennis academy. When her coach is suspended and then very swiftly relieved of his duties in the aftermath of a young female player’s suicide, everyone in the club is called to testify in order to try to understand what’s gone on. But Julie decides to keep quiet, so it’s her silence which people question. Without her consent, people write her story, they imagine things, they conjure up ideas, and they fear her. Her mutism leaves room for all kinds of interpretation, but she conserves her strength for sport and nothing else. She focuses her energy on fulfilling her ambitions as the storm rages on around her, until the conditions are right for something to be said. The deafening uproar of the rumours in circulation seem to leave her cold, focused as she is on a wound which has finally healed and a body which she is successfully taming.

The film opens with a static shot of Julie practicing, moving in and out of eyesight, with the background sound of the racket hitting the ball and the white noise of the gym, beneath its artificial lights which lend it a crepuscular hue. The entire first half, echoing Julie’s silence, unfolds in a kind of chiaroscuro, with grey zones created by drawn curtains, dawn rises and beginnings of nights out punctuating her everyday life. The film’s light (coming courtesy of "star" director of photography Nicolas Karakatsanis) is soft, just like the silence. But the ghostly presence of the former coach is slowly counteracted by the brighter character of his replacement, who takes the right distance and allows Julie to do what it takes to find her mojo and, with it, her truth.

Julie Keeps Quiet explores the questions of abuse, domination and control with accuracy and genuine cinematographic intelligence, and these wholly modern themes are bound to rock the festival this year, both on and off screen. In this sense, the film is part of a fascinating societal conversation, but it’s also significant in and of itself for its sharp screenplay, the quality of its artistic direction and, last but not least, the impressive performance of Tessa Van den Broeck, a young tennis player in her first on-screen role. It’s a movie which invites us, with its mystery and persistence, to hear and respect Julie’s silence in order to finally overcome it.

Julie Keeps Quiet is produced by De Wereldvrede, in co-production with Les Films du Fleuve, alongside Swedish firms Hobab and Film i Väst, and French-American outfit Blue Morning Pictures. New Europe Film Sales are managing international sales.

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(Translated from French)

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