Days of the Bagnold Summer

 

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A perfect fusion of talents in a British film of great appeal.

 
Days of the Bagnold Summer  

Monica Dolan and Earl Cave (son of Nick)

 

Here's a film that may actually benefit from the current lockdown - and deservedly so. Marking the debut of actor Simon Bird as a feature director, it finds him in absolute accord with the screenwriter Lisa Owens who is here adapting a graphic novel by Joff Winterhart. That's an origin that might suggest a somewhat fantastical work and the fact that a central character, 15-year-old Daniel Bagnold (Earl Cave), is a devotee of heavy metal music suggested to me in advance that I might not be the right audience for this movie. But, as it turns out, Days of the Bagnold Summer has very wide appeal and its comic portrayal of the relationship between Daniel and his mother, Sue (Monica Dolan), a middle-aged divorcĂ©e, avoids exaggeration and is always true to life. Both of them are characters who amuse us, but we warm to them too.

 

This is a small-scale intimate film that will ring bells with any mother who has had to cope with a son expressing the rebelliousness of an insecure young teenager and for that matter many a youth will recognise himself in Daniel. The film takes this highly recognisable situation and then finds ways to elaborate it. It is set in summer during holidays from school at a time when Daniel had been expecting to visit his estranged father now settled with a new wife in Florida. However, this exciting invitation is cancelled at the last minute condemning him to a potentially boring and banal time at home in the south of England. The tensions between mother and son as she tries to make allowances for his blunt, self-centred comments make for splendid comedy - and all the more so because Dolan and Cave both play it straight instead of seeking laughs. That approach enables us to understand how the shy inexperienced Daniel has been affected by the divorce of his parents and to realise that Sue, a librarian, is drawn into hoping for a relationship with a flirtatious teacher (Rob Brydon) due to her fears that her future life will soon become a lonely one.

 

Quite admirably, these underlying aspects are neither underlined for drama nor sentimentalised and consequently they give a sense of reality to the tale while allowing the humour of the piece to thrive (the delivery of the lines by Cave and Dolan could not be bettered). Arguably the scenes with the teacher are a shade closer to what you would expect in a situation comedy on TV, but everything involving Sue and Daniel is perfectly judged and there are useful supporting contributions from Alice Lowe as Sue's supportive sister and from Tamsin Greig as the mother of Daniel's best friend. Dolan and Cave, so perfectly balanced in their playing, could deservedly go on to win awards for their performances. All the same had it been released into cinemas it is quite possible that Days of the Bagnold Summer would have been pushed aside by films with bigger names and greater clout. As a film available now for home viewing it is ideally suited. It loses nothing by being seen away from a bigger screen, offers real laughs that will be welcome at this time and is true enough to real life to possess that extra depth and feeling that are sacrificed by films created as escapist entertainment.

  

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Monica Dolan, Earl Cave, Rob Brydon, Tamsin Greig, Alice Lowe, Elliot Speller-Gillott, Nathaniel Saleh, Grace Hogg-Robinson, Lesley Harcourt, George Wilkins, Alfie Todd.

 

Dir Simon Bird, Pro Matthew James Wilkinson, Screenplay Lisa Owens, based on the graphic novel by Joff Winterhart, Ph Simon Tindall, Pro Des Lucie Reid, Ed Ashley White, Music Belle and Sebastian, Costumes Alison McLaughlin.

 

Quickfire/Altitude Film Entertainment/Storyhouse & Pont Neuf Productions/Stigma Films-Altitude Film Entertainment.
86 mins. UK. 2019. Rel: 8 June 2020. Available on Curzon Home Cinema & BFI Player. Cert. 12.