Last Summer

 

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A film that deserves to be noted even if it goes seriously awry.

 
Last Summer

  

Here is a film which seems to promise much but one which ultimately falls apart. That is a shame because the good things in it are really good. First, this is the debut of TV's Jon Jones as the director of a cinema feature and it shows that he has a distinct talent for big screen images. The story that he tells is set in rural Wales in the 1970s and, using the 'Scope format, the film makes admirable use of location footage shot by Mark Wolf. But, over and above that, with the aid of his editor John Richards, Jones proves a highly adept storyteller with a natural instinct for visuals that make for good cinema. Then there's the matter of the acting with four boys playing the youngsters not yet in their teens who are the central characters here. Noa Thomas playing Davy Davies is made the key figure, but all of these roles are substantial and the credits proudly announce that the film introduces its four leading players. Under Jones's guidance, all of them acquit themselves well.

 

These assets are considerable and for some time Last Summer holds out the promise of being a really good film. At the outset, we meet Davy and his brother Iwan (Gruffydd Weston) whose best friends are another pair of siblings, Rhys and Robbie Morris (Rowan Jones and Christopher Benning). The opening scenes are suitably lyrical although the innocence of children at play in the countryside is set against references to the killing of animals for food. But soon violence of an extreme kind erupts - dramatic but by no means unconvincing - and the lives of these boys are transformed by the sudden new awareness that this brings of what the adult world can contain.

 

The local flavour plays its part, but nevertheless the theme here invites comparison with an American classic, 1986's Stand By Me. That film, however, was constructed so as to build gradually towards its dramatic heart whereas here the drama unfolds early. That leads to a second half in which Jones in his capacity as writer becomes increasingly unpersuasive as he looks for a direction in which to develop his story. Even earlier one has started to note weaknesses: two characters - Mrs Davies (Nia Roberts) and Kevin (Steffan Cennydd) the 19-year-old brother of Rhys and Robbie - are written in ways that fail to make switches in their behaviour seem real, the kind of contradictions that do exist in life. Similarly Davy's sensitivity, so crucial to the tale, yields to actions which provide the film with a climax that feels both melodramatic and contrived after    which what amounts in the circumstances to a happy ending feels fraudulent.

 

For me this is a film which doesn't merely tail off - it actually collapses. Yet I look forward to seeing more work both from the four young leads and from Jon Jones who, as a director for cinema if not as a writer, most certainly proves his worth with this movie.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Noa Thomas, Gruffydd Weston, Rowan Jones, Christopher Benning, Steffan Cennydd, Ruth Ollman, Robert Wilfort, Nia Roberts, Steffan Rhodri, Richard Harrington.

 

Dir Jon Jones, Pro Katherine Lannon, Cerise Hallam Latrkin and Jon Jones, Screenplay Jon Jones, Ph Mark Wolf, Pro Des Phil Rawsthorne, Ed John Richards, Music Mark Thomas, Costumes Ffion Elinor.

 

Flickerbook Features/Film Cymru Wales/Casm Films/Roxbourne Media Limited-Miracle Communicatons Ltd/Flickerbook Features.
96 mins. UK. 2017. Rel: 7 June 2019. Cert. 15.