Living in Chicago, it’s easy to take for granted the social benefits of a metropolis. A first thought is that you’re able to pull from a larger pool of possible friendships, relationships, colleagues, and mentors. But the inverse is also true in that you’re able to choose who you don’t want to know, and what you don’t want those people to know about you. The smaller a town is, the less options you have in this regard, and the harder it can feel to be alone – a big problem for sixteen-year-old Anne (Sigrid ten Napel) whose disinterest in boys has become painfully obvious to her rural Dutch community.
“This is me when everything was normal,” the narration begins. Living with a jolly but ineffective father, a persistently moody mother, and an older brother who’s recently moved his bedroom onto the backyard seems to have primed Anne for rebellion. In a town where everyone knows everyone and there’s not much to do but drink, a visit from an outsider is a major event. Cue the roar of a motorcycle and the arrival of Lena (Jade Olieberg) – a sexy, leather-clad woman that instantly attracts Anne.
Hollywood films may be guilty of failing to write iconic characters with diverse backgrounds and sexualities, but “Summer,” as an LGBT sexual awakening drama, is manipulative in its own ways. Marjolein Bierens wrote the screenplay, and significantly oversteps the motivations necessary for her character to come out as a homosexual. The men of “Summer,” all the men, are predatory beasts. They drink and burp, take advantage of women, neglect their wives, and even get away with rape. Anne isn’t given a single reasonable interaction with another man, resulting in the arrival of a gentle, kind woman seemingly like the easy alternative to her specific surroundings — not the sudden uncovering of a previously restrained lesbianism.
Director Colette Bothof practices the storytelling craft here, but this film is not a winner. The opening narration has Anne introducing everything about her life, but the content isn’t nearly as interesting as the film seems to think it is. “That’s my brother” and “this is the road we ride our bikes on every Tuesday.” There’s no follow-through on this quirky sort of summer-to-change-our-lives technique. To show the character’s life changing is not enough if we, too, aren’t changed from witnessing it. “Summer” is a by-the-books construction of a film, but it’s not a very entertaining and complex one.
3 out of 10 pointsReturn to CIFF 2014 Coverage
1 hr. 25 min.
Steef Cuijpers, Pieter Dictus, Martijn Lakemeier, Jade Olieberg, Lisa Smit, Lisanne Sweere, Sigrid ten Napel, Eva van der Gucht, Willemijn van der Ree