16 Years Till Summer


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

16 Years Till Summer
"16 Years Till Summer shows what can be done on a low budget with patience, insight and attention to detail."

A modest little documentary that quietly paints a picture of shattered lives, 16 Years Till Summer shows what can be done on a low budget with patience, insight and attention to detail. Made over four years, it follows Uisdean, a man leaving prison after serving 16 years for killing his friend, something he says was accidental but which still haunts him. Released so he can care for his ailing father Calum in his remote Highland home, he seems at first to be finding a kind of salvation through the simple act of attending to someone else's needs, but he's a complex man, and despite his superficial air of calm it gradually becomes apparent that he's still troubled.

The first half of this film is patchy and a little too slow to keep the viewer properly engaged, though many will be seduced by the stark landscapes and by Calum's mixture of affection and wit. One scene in which a tiny lamb explores the inside of the house will charm pretty much anyone, and it also neatly illustrates the caring side of both men, together with their focus on the turning of the seasons and their constant planning for the future - perhaps bravado, perhaps simply habit, given the fragile state of both their lives. It's worth sticking with it, at any rate, for the stronger second half, which builds to a conclusion you won't forget in a hurry.

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Here the film shifts gears. It begins with a letter. "Are you the man who left the fish on the train for his father?" Audrey figures he must be in a pretty low place. She offers to be a friend. They write. They meet. She tells him about her home, also remote. They could get armchairs, place them at either side of the fire, and just sit.

It's quite a thing to see love blossom for real, and the more so in a context where there seemed little hope of any kind of pleasure. The smallness of the couple's ambitions make them all the more affecting - but is Uisdean still hoping for too much? His lawyer notes that his initial crime also involved a woman whom he shared a house with. And even the slightest infraction could send him back to prison.

Observational, never intrusive, McLoughlan's camera takes in Uisdean's journey with a quiet grace, letting us draw out its subtleties for ourselves. It's a tale that explores different kinds of isolation and that leaves the viewer with potent questions about the justice system and whether this is the best we can do for people, without ever losing sight of Uisdean's own responsibility for his situation. The result is a simple but powerful film which deserves much more attention than it is likely to get.

Reviewed on: 11 Jun 2015
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16 Years Till Summer packshot
A convicted criminal returns home to nurse his father, bringing a dangerous mix of troubled past and big ambition into the lives of those that love him.
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Director: Lou McLoughlan

Writer: Lou McLoughlan

Year: 2015

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: UK, Iceland

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