Summer 1993 is a delicately handled portrayal of an orphaned 6yo Barcelona girl’s adjustment to a new life in the country with her uncle’s family.
One of the outstanding qualities of Summer 1993 is its sense of authenticity. This is perhaps not surprising since it is autobiographical, based on a painful period in writer/director Carla Simon’s childhood. However, sentimentality and nostalgia often creep into autobiographical pieces, and it is impressive that Simon has retained enough personal distance to avoid that happening, especially given that this is her first feature film. She has drawn on her personal experience for detail, but exercised artistic discipline in the ways in which she allows it to surface. The result is a mosaic of material drawn from real life that comes together to convincingly realistic effect.
Also terrific are the acting performances, especially of the two children. Their interactions with each other are a delight to watch – great fly-on-the-wall stuff that rings oh so true. Simon is clearly a deft hand in directing kids, no doubt assisted by vivid childhood memories.
The narrative is slight: following the death of her parents, reluctant 6yo Frida (astonishingly well played by Laia Artigas) is forced to move from Barcelona to the country to live with her uncle (David Verdaguer), his wife (Bruna Cusi) and their 3yo (or thereabouts) daughter, Anna (the irresistibly cute Paula Robles). Frida is afraid of the chooks and bewildered by the unfamiliar environment in which she has been plonked, and struggles to adjust. Her adoptive parents are kind and understanding, but not always aware that she is sitting on her turmoil and confusion, which she sometimes takes out on her new little sister.
It’s not only Frida who struggles to adapt; so do her adoptive parents. The film tracks the gradual progress of the disrupted family in returning to a harmonious unit, with the focus on Anna. It’s necessarily slow-paced, but absorbing. The most dramatic event is an injury to Anna arising from Frida’s jealous behaviour. A subsequent rift between the parents leads to their decision to set behavioural limits for Frida, which is exquisitely handled.
Summer 1993 is not a film for viewers accustomed to the fast-food fare trotted out by Hollywood, but those prepared to exercise some patience will be well rewarded by this gentle and acutely observed little gem.
Premiering in Australia as part of the Spanish Film Festival, which always features some terrific cinema. Interested Perthites can check the program details via the link provided below.
Movie Website: http://www.carla-simon.com/summer-1993
Summer 1993 (original title Estiu 1993) features: Laia Artigas, Paula Robles, Bruna Cusí, David Verdaguer
Writer/Director: Carla Simon
Runtime: 97 min
Summer 1993 Australian premiere: Sunday, 30 April 6:30pm; Friday, 12 May
6:30pm (as part of 2017 Spanish Film Festival, running Thursday 27 April to Wednesday 17 May at Cinema Paradiso in Perth. Check 2017 Spanish Film Festival program for full program details.
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