It was Friday night, the sun was shining and Andy Murray was playing his semi final against Federer. Shoreditch High Street was buzzing and I was headed to a screening of Dutch film Zomer (Summer) which was playing as part of the East End Film Festival.
As I made my way past Box Park hoards gathered around the gigantic screen that was showing the tennis. I slowed my pace to catch a glimpse of the match. The temptation to linger and enjoy the atmosphere was strong. However, Murray was losing and the film was starting in ten minutes, so I headed on to the Rich Mix.
Summer, directed by Colette Bothof, is a coming of age drama exploring the evolution and sexual awakening of central character Anne. Played by Sigrid ten Napel, Anne is a quiet, shy girl, living in her insular village that is overshadowed by the local power station. Beginning with a sense of innocence and acceptance of the status quo of life, over the course of the summer, Anne begins to question everything around her and the way that life should be. Living with her unhappy mother, power plant working father, influential older brother and handicapped younger brother, the film is littered with real, interesting characters. This is not a picture perfect vision of childhood and one perhaps that the Dutch tourist board won’t be promoting any time soon.
As Anne narrates her story, the film captures the essence and confusion of young adulthood and the shift away from the familiar. A light, melancholy soundtrack accompanies the action perfectly. This is slow paced country life, where things roll along in their own way. Humour is scattered throughout the film, particularly in the early stages; from Anne’s father’s celebrating her mother’s birthday with his own friends; to her brother’s attempt to leave home and getting as far as the shed. However, things begin to change when Lena arrives in town, an attractive, bike riding, independent girl who has moved locally with her mother.
As village life becomes more uncomfortable for Anne, she dares to carve her own path and is immediately drawn towards Lena who is the antithesis of everything she has so far experienced. As the two grow ever closer, the tradition of the village is highlighted, exposing a community enveloped by religion and an unwillingness to change. In essence we are presented with sexual assault, domestic violence, suicide and homophobia. Surprisingly though, none of this feels overly heavy handed. Staying true to this being Anne’s personal story, she discovers herself with Lena and finds her way out emotionally, if not physically. Come the finale, there is an overall hope of change, it’s just not immediately handed to you on a plate.
Director: Colette Bothof
Cast: Steef Cuijpers, Pieter Dictus, Ella-June Henrard