Cannes 2024: Blue Sun Palace, Julie Keeps Quiet, Simon of the Mountain | Festivals & Awards

A teenage Julie (Tessa Van den Broeck) is a promising and intense tennis player. Nearing an important tryout for the Belgian Tennis Federation (BFT), however, her world is crumbling. She has fallen behind her schoolwork, become a recluse among her friends, and has now lost her coach, Jeremy, to an internal investigation about the death-by-suicide of a young girl at the tennis academy where she trains. It’s difficult to know what’s going on inside her mind, as she grapples with the fallout from her coach—she rarely lets anyone in. Rather one must read between her stoic glances and her refrain of “I’m fine” to know the pain that lurks beneath the trauma. 

Julie Keeps Quiet,” the feature directorial debut from Leonardo Van Dijl, is a taut, haunting character study whose patient rhythms effectively breeds inescapable tension. Tennis is a fast-paced sport, but each drop of information and every revelation that seems to sharply volley back at us comes deliberately. Sometimes it happens visually, the filmmaker and DP Nicolas Karakatsanis often obscure Juliet wholly in shadow, indicating the hollowness she feels inside. Illicit phone calls and texts between Julie and Jeremy provide further clues, as does Julie’s fraught relationship with her new coach—which, what might seem uncharacteristic for her, appears to be healthy. But most of all, it’s Julie herself, given a layered inner life by Van den Broeck in an incredible debut performance, who keeps our attention.

She has very few lines of dialogue, some of it repeated heavily, mostly because she can’t put into words what she’s feeling or has experienced. Rather she keeps everyone—competitors, family, and classmates—at arm’s length. A telling juxtaposition is created when Julie, in the latter stages of the investigation, does begin to open up by making new friends. The cloud that usually hangs over her, nevertheless, is never too far away. It’s why Van Dijl often frames Julie, alone, while playing tennis, and why she refuses to participate in the investigation as she grinds toward her tryout. It’s how “Julie Keeps Quiet” is an exercise in patience, the kind of film, told subtly, with careful hands, without fault.

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