Dir. Kenny Glenaan. UK. 2008. 82 mins
A carefully-calibrated study of damaged lives and enduring friendship, Summer is a moving and expertly-constructed British drama flawed only by the predictability of the events that unfold. Director Kenny Glenaan has twice won the Michael Powell Award atEdinburghfor Gas Attack (2001) and Yasmin (2004) but neither film managed to secure theatrical distribution. This time around, Vertigo has takenUKrights for Summer which should help to raise the profile of this relatively unsung talent. The company can anticipate generally favourable reviews but will have to nurture an audience for this mournful, modest film in a territory where the release schedule is already overcrowded and viewers have often shown a resistance to the Ken Loach school of social realist human dramas. European prospects might be more favourable.
Summer declares its cinematic sensibility right from the opening shots which confidently establish a sense of English landscape and stillness. Tony Slater-King’s evocative cinematography constantly emphasises the sun-kissed brightness of a cherished summer. In the present, Shaun (Carlyle) is a loyal carer for his best friend Daz (Evets) who has been told that he only has a matter of weeks left to live. The prospect of his death fills Shaun with a longing for the past and memories of a perfect, carefree summer when they were both sixteen, Shaun was in love and the world seemed so full of possibilities.
Summer explores the long and winding road that links the present with the past, layering the flashbacks to tell a story in three different time periods - childhood, adolescence and careworn middle-age. We know that ultimately we will discover the catalogue of misfortune which explains why Daz wound up in a wheelchair, how Shaun crippled his hand and why the bond between them has lasted twenty years.
None of the developments in Summer could be classified as a great surprise but the screenplay by Hugh Ellis has an economy and light, dry humour that brings the characters to life and makes us care about the way life and chance has treated them. The film has a political undercurrent in the way the education system fails Shaun but the human element always takes precedence over any social agenda.
Dyslexic, angry at the world and frustrated by his own shortcomings, the teenage Shaun careers towards an inevitable showdown with the law but always remains sympathetic, in part because of the peace and comfort he finds in his relationship with the understanding Katy (Tulej). Carlyle has one of his best roles in some time, conveying the inner tension and anguish of the older Shaun, his haunted eyes and coiled body revealing the heavy burden of his attachment to an idyllic past and the daily struggle involved in not surrendering to despair.
A former actor, Glennan has always been an acute and sympathetic director of actors. The film is well cast and uniformly well acted, especially by Steve Eve ts who brings out the gruff, gallows humour in Daz and a charismatic Sean Kelly as Shaun the bad boy teenager. Glennan also manages to keep the running time to a compact 82 minutes without any sense of sacrificing content or leaving too many elements unexplored.
+ 44 207 612 1080
Steve Eve ts