Reviewed by: George Williamson

The plot of Summer sounds like it's going to be an overly worthy yawn-fest - oh, look, it's Robert Carlyle being a working class hero again, looking after his crippled, dying, alcoholic friend. Mourning the passing of his youth and the way that love slipped though his fingers. Great. However, the brilliant performances from all involved manage to elevate this into one of the most powerful films of the year.

Shaun (Robert Carlyle) and Daz (Steve Evets) are the village bad boys and have been best friends forever, through thick and thin. As children they tear around on bikes and continually get themselves into trouble, usually with Katy (Rachael Blake), Shaun's girlfriend, in tow. What follows is the story of their lives together and, later, apart, focusing on crippled Darren's terminal cirrhosis, told through Shaun's eyes with flashbacks to better, younger times, explaining exactly why Shaun is so devoted to his dying pal. It's a simple tale of loss and regret for a life that's been frittered away, but is filled with excellent natural performances from all the leads, especially from Carlyle who gives his best performance since Trainspotting.

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Summer is set in three time periods of Shaun's life - the innocent childhood of riding bikes and scraping knees, the adolescence spent drinking cider and stealing kisses in the woods, and the comedown of a thirties spent as an ex-alcoholic carer. They're interwoven in such a way that the true reason for the strength of the bonds between the central characters remains hidden until near the end, a secret that makes the film exceptionally compelling. It also allows plenty of time for the characters' relationships past and present to be fully examined and understood - making the conclusion's emotional payload all the more affecting.

The examination of the relative strength of bonds of friendship, love and guilt is subtle; hinted at, rather than being rammed down your throat, which stops it from feeling like an anti-drinking propaganda film. The plot is as gritty as real life - there are no punches pulled and no implausible reconciliations here, simply people acting as they do in the world. Favourable comparisons can be drawn to the films of Ken Loach and Shane Meadows; this falls somewhere between them in tone - it's bleaker than This Is England, less depressing than Sweet Sixteen - but easily as good.

This film further cements Kenny Glenaan as one of the best young British directors working today - Summer is sublime.

Reviewed on: 25 Jun 2008
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Now a carer for his dying friend, a former prisoner laments the way that he has frittered away his life.
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Director: Kenny Glenaan

Starring: Robert Carlyle, Steve Evets, Rachael Blake, Michael Socha, Sean Kelly, Jo Doherty, Joanna Tulej

Year: 2008

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2008

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