Summer 1993

 

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A Spanish film drawing on actual memories of a troubled summer in childhood.

   

Summer 1993

Laia Artigas

 

In this, her first feature following short works that also reflect her interest in family relationships, Carla Simón succeeds in creating a world that is recognisably her own. There's a female sensitivity at work here and a wholly consistent approach that leads her to tell her story with the utmost simplicity. No artiness intervenes, no touches draw attention to the filmmaker. Instead, we are invited to share the world of the film's central character, six-year-old Frida (Laia Artigas).

 

We meet Frida when she is leaving Barcelona to live in the Catalan countryside with her uncle and aunt, Esteve (David Verdaguer) and Marga (Bruna Curi). The events depicted are all told from Frida's viewpoint, a fact that follows naturally from Carla Simón having based the film on her own childhood experiences. The absence of Frida's parents makes it easy for us to guess at the reason why the child is being taken away to this new home, but Frida is too young to be brought into discussions by the adults of exactly what has happened and, as in that recent masterpiece Leave No Trace, only very gradually does the audience get confirmatory details (the crucial one is long delayed).

 

What is great here are the performances, especially those by Laia Artigas and Paula Robles, the latter playing the three year old Anna who is the child of Esteve and Marga. Anna becomes Frida's playmate but also at times someone to make her jealous because she has loving parents present. Indeed, Summer 1993 is a portrait of a youngster whose sometimes disturbing behaviour is born of the trauma she has suffered. Both child actresses are quite wonderfully natural and those with long memories may want to compare Artigas with the legendary Ana Torrent from 1973's The Spirit of the Beehive.

 

Simón matches the quality of the acting by her complete avoidance of sentimentality and many viewers appear to have been overwhelmed by this film. Yet, for all its remarkable qualities and despite its appropriately slow pace, the film did for me come to seem overextended and there are times when subsidiary figures appear but leave the viewer initially uncertain of their exact standing. The film's ultimate disclosure about the past comes only in the last few minutes and I felt that I had been kept waiting for too long. Furthermore, as presented, Frida's final adjustment following a crisis seems too sudden and too complete, although it may be that it echoes the reality exactly. Given the fine location shooting and the immense appeal of the child actors, I rather envy those viewers who have not shared my eventual reservations. Regardless of whether or not one sees it as a flawed work, Summer 1993 is a remarkable achievement for Carla Simón.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Laia Artigas, Paula Robles, Bruna Curi, David Verdaguer, Isabel Rocatti, Fermi Reixach, Montse Sanz, Berta Pipó, Etna Campillo, Quimet Pia, Paula Blanco.

 

Dir Carla Simón, Pro Valérie Delpierre, Stefan Schmitz and Maria Zamora, Screenplay Carla Simón, Ph Santiago Racaj, Pro Des Mónica Bernuy, Ed Didac Palou and Ana Pfaff, Music Pau Boïgues and Ernest Pipó, Costumes Anna Aguilà.

  
Avalon/Creative Europe Media/Inicia Films/Movistar+/Fundación SGAE-New Wave Films.
98 mins. Spain. 2017. Rel: 13 July 2018. Cert. 12A.