Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Rather than CHANGELING, why not watch SUMMER and see some authentic emotion and social injustice?

After a long day in the office I wasn't looking forward to what I presumed would be an earnest but dull look at gritty British working class life. I couldn't have been more wrong. SUMMER is a marvellous film - it's certainly a bracing look at wasted lives but the bleak subject matter is offset by a wicked sense of humour founded in the little absurdities of life.

It's the story of three friends who grew up in working class England in the eighties and where life took them. Shaun is a kid with learning disabilities in a school and an era where people just thought you were being arsey when really you were frustrated and angry. His best mate is Daz, another kid consigned to no future by an educational system that streamed kids into those worthy of taking exams and those destined for the dole queue. The two kids hang out with a girl called Katy against the better judgement of her parents. After all, Katy's clever - she has a future. (If you want to see how institutions victimise innocents then this movie is far more subtle and realistic than CHANGELING - even though I know CHANGELING was based on a true story that just happened to be absurd.)

The story of their summer as teenagers is inter-cut with their adult lives. Shaun (Robert Carlyle) is now a disheveled petrol pump attendant who also acts as a carer for Daz (Steve Evets) who's now consigned to a wheelchair and drinking himself to death. Daz' son Daniel (Michael Socha) is following in his footsteps. And then there's Katy - who went on the university and reached dizzying heights as a provincial solicitor.

You'd think all this would add up to a pretty grim movie - and there are scenes that are as anger-inducing as CHANGELING wants to be. The social injustice drips from the screen. And Robert Carlyle's performance is as emotionally affecting and heartbreaking as anything Angelina Jolie conjures up. But the great thing is that despite seemingly shitty circumstances both Shaun and Daz retain their sarcastic sense of humour and can still take pleasure in life. And the same could be said for the movie as a whole. SUMMER doesn't have the manicured production values of a big-budget Oscar contender but it feels more real, more humble and it's all the more engaging for that.

SUMMER played Rome 2008 and is currently on release in the UK.

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