Charlotte Wells directs Paul Mescal, Frankie Corio and Celia Rowlson-Hall in this nineties-set British drama where an 11 year old girl is taken on a package holiday by her estranged but loving young Dad.
Felt very much like a mood movie to begin with. Lo-fi coming-of age but more familiar to Brits of my generation. The fashions and soundtrack choices ring true but don’t feel too in your face or too obvious. Even when they marry up with that scene or emotion perfectly. Yet proceedings casually take a more ominous turn. Something unspoken has clearly unsettled Dad (Mescal is excellent) and though he is trying his best to have a good time, we sense a horrific weight hanging over him. It can’t be his relaxed, thoughtful parenting style. He clearly loves our protagonist and seems to have a healthier if overly aware attitude to her growing up than most parents of this decade. We even see a more standard, aggressive form of discipline (nasty, confidence knocking) take place across the pool. Something that echoes with what we hear about granny and grandad back when he was a kid. We see glimpses of adult Sophie in the future – remembering, yearning for that lost, enigmatic summer. She and we are trying to piece together what Dad was going through. Is he suicidal? Fated to die in some oft teased accident? Bisexual? Cancer stricken? Drowning in debt? Soon to abandon this paternal relationship he seems too young for in many ways? The growing negativity is never truly defined but Wells keeps disrupting the good times with moments of suggested fatal peril and obvious despair. He definitely is doing his best to overcome a depression. In the best scene, his daughter casually remarks that even though she has had a perfect day, she is sad. On the other side of the bathroom door, he spits his toothpaste at the mirror, at himself, in anger. Is he most fearful that he has unwillingly passed his suppressed demons onto her? The ending leaves nothing resolved but strands you with a sense of finality and loss that almost brought me to tears. All through suggestion. About as accomplished as an indie debut gets.
Perfect Double Bill: My Summer Of Love (2004)
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