My Summer With Irène


Reviewed by: Sergiu Inizian

My Summer With Irene
"The Italian filmmaker employs a minimalist approach that embraces the languorous nature of summer."

Set against the backdrop of an Italian summer, Carlo Sironi’s sophomore film explores the chance encounter of two teenage girls who navigate their relationship with an unpredictable future. Its simplicity shines through, allowing facial expressions and shy utterances to weave a story that feels oddly nostalgic — not for bygone summers but for those that might have been.

Clara (Maria Camilla Brandenburg) receives treatment at a summer camp. She participates in group activities but usually prefers to stay solitary. Her expression seems longing, if not dejected. She meets Irène (Noée Abita) at the pool on a quiet afternoon, and they bond, sharing ice cream. They talk about their therapy, yet the nature of their condition remains ambiguous. But the heartache is palpable throughout their muted summer moment — the first of many. It's a faint distress signalling an ailment that prevents them from enjoying their teenage years.

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As they prepare to leave the camp, Irène receives an upsetting phone call, which spurs her desire to escape from a cycle of hospitals and health tests. With little persuasion, Clara joins her, quietly sharing her friend's sadness about returning home. They scuttle away from the bus, with no one in sight to stop them. The mostly off-screen adult presence from the camp is gone by now, Sironi minimising the perspective of grown-ups in the spontaneous getaway. For what feels like the first time, the teenage protagonists take charge of their feelings, exploring each other's stories on an isolated island.

The Italian filmmaker employs a minimalist approach that embraces the languorous nature of summer. The beautifully shot crystal-clear water encompasses an enjoyable peace that allows the two teens to momentarily leave their troubles behind. As the two girls settle into their remote retreat, their surroundings pick up a tactile quality. Whether it is the cosiness of an afternoon nap or the chill of that first dive, the screen abounds with nostalgic seaside feelings. As if Clara and Irène sample a life previously imagined.

The rhythm of their respite is interrupted by the appearance of a lively group of friends, an encounter that tests their relationship. The usually shy Clara opens up after they get acquainted with the unnamed vacationers. While Irène seems to enjoy the novelty of new company, her friend basks in a carefree group dynamic that feels liberating. She even takes a shot at summer love in an endearing moment of vulnerable youth. Still, Clara remains devoted to Irène, who experiences a mounting sense of uneasiness, manifested through her physical symptoms. Despite being among the pleasures of summer, they can't help but feel isolated by their illness, its vague nature lingering as the days go by.

Sironi's version of youthful summer feels untethered to a single period in time. It stays in the moment with the two girls, who form a tender connection away from those who want to scrutinise their shared ailment. Finding a VHS recorder, the protagonists create a snapshot of their impromptu vacation, chronicling their bond through brief moments of love and joy. As the strain of an uncertain future overwhelms them, Clara and Irène rely on the grainy images, which embrace a sense of appreciation for those who cross our paths and make our days a bit more summery.

Reviewed on: 18 Feb 2024
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My Summer With Irène packshot
Italy 1997. When 17-year-old Clara and Irene meet they are nothing alike but get on marvelously. They run away together to an island in Sicily to live their summer freely, and to hide from a reality they want to forget.

Director: Carlo Sironi

Writer: Carlo Sironi, Silvana Tamma

Starring: Noée Abita, Maria Camilla Brandenburg, Claudio Segaluscio, Beatrice Puccilli, Anna De Luzio, Gabriele Rozzo

Year: 2024

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Italy, France


BIFF 2024

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