Dir: Antonio Banderas. Spain. 2007. 118 mins.
A dreamlike and seductive second feature from Antonio Banderas, Summer Rain follows a group of young men and women in Malaga in the 1970s as they struggle to transition into adulthood. A nostalgic exercise of sorts for Banderas, himself born and raised in Malaga, the film is unquestionably indulgent - it's too long, a tad too languorous and cluttered with a subplot too many - but it also has much to commend it, principally its simmering youthful sexuality which is rarely evoked with such candour, sensitivity and melancholy.
Although Banderas is the only famous name on which to peg a marketing campaign (his old Almodovar co-star Victoria Abril has a small role), distributors should focus on the cast of beautiful, semi-clad young Spanish actors who are bound to raise the temperature of viewers in any country.
Critics will be generally favourable in their response, and the film could wind up selling as well as other sexy Spanish arthouse fare like Sex And Lucia or Jamon Jamon.
Based on the novel El Camino De Los Ingleses (The English Road) by Antonio Soler, who also wrote the screenplay, the film is centred around Miguelito Davila (Amarillo), a handsome, intelligent young man who works in his father's hardware store in Malaga. The drama begins as Miguelito has surgery to remove a kidney, an experience which leaves him with new ambitions to become a poet and a new outlook on life.
As the summer begins, Miguelito and his friends hang out by the swimming pool. There's Babirusa (Aravelo), a rebellious boy with a passion for Bruce Lee whose mother has abandoned him to live in London, Paco (Gomez), the son of a rich family whose father is a corrupt businessman in and out of prison and Moratalla (Casas), who just wants to have a good time.
Miguelito falls in love with Luli (Ruiz), a girl he meets by the pool, and the two engage in a passionate romance. Luli dreams of being a professional dancer but cannot afford to pay for dance school. Her best friend aka The Body (Nieto) starts seeing Paco and the four of them experiment with sex and love.
Inevitably, the initial flush of passion cannot last. Luli is seduced by an underwear salesman who promises to put her through dance school and Miguelito engages in an affair with an older woman (Abril, charismatic and heartbreaking as always). Babirusa goes to London to his mother's wedding and discovers that she is a lapdancer, Paco's father gets out of prison and immediately prompts his mistress to suicide.
Each of the group is faced with dilemmas, realisations and decisions that aren't easy and will lead, inevitably, to violence and tragedy. The English Road of the title refers to a street in Malaga which could take them away in any direction they choose.
Banderas and his cinematographer Xavi Gimenez drench the heightened adolescent drama in the gorgeous colours of summer sunshine, evening and rain, creating a mood which is often more reverie than reality. The actors, especially Amarillo and Ruiz as the doomed lovers, are sensational and will no doubt step up into the shoes which were filled 15 years ago by Banderas and Abril.
Green Moon productions
Future Films Ltd.
Antonio Soler, from his novel El Camino De Los Ingleses