We all remember our summer holidays don’t we? Through the early years of enjoying the sunshine, beaches, ice creams and caravanning as well as getting up to no good, playing sports, water fights, knock down ginger, and getting many, many scrapes across our bodies. While the kids were out having a ball, the parents, meanwhile, were caught in the whirlwind of the aftermath: patching up said scrapes as well as making sure everyone was clean and washed, fed, and watered. Summers Are a strange time for kids, no?
Simon Bird’s sharp, sophisticated summer-set film deals with one such summer for the Bagnolds: single mother Sue (Monica Dolan) is the homemaker after her husband fled to Florida years earlier, left to support their son Daniel (Earl Cave) as he deals with the mental and physical after-effects of losing his father.
Taking solace in heavy metal bands and dressed all in black, Daniel is looking forward to escaping his mundane surroundings by joining his dad in Florida for the summer, only for it to be taken away from him due to a new arrival. Crestfallen, he sees it as just another episode to add to his ever-growing “lose” column, and his anger, resentment and sadness only amplify as he and his mum now have six weeks together in suburban purgatory.
It’s a subgenre that, let’s face it, has been done to death but if done in the right way, the coming-of-age tale is always capable of being funny and sad, truthful yet otherworldly, melancholic yet touching and in Simon Bird’s supremely capable first-time director hands, Days of The Bagnold Summer is a real treat. Shifting its focus from one teen – as is the norm – his film, based on the graphic novel by Joff Winterhart and superbly adapted by Bird’s wife Lisa Owens, is about two different souls slowly coming out their anxiety-led prison, learning that life, sometimes, doesn’t always have a dark cloud hanging over it.
It’s a difficult task, but Bird, Owens et al find real romanticism in both its characters and their relationship as they bicker over fudge, cake, seasides, and wedding attire. Through those short, sharp arguments, they soon find that they are actually pretty well suited to each other, and to survive in their very different lives, they can overcome anything together. And to say both Dolan and Cave are extraordinary in the film is an understatement, with both beautifully bringing their characters to life wonderfully. Dolan’s delicate, compassionate turn is simply magnificent.
Comedy | UK, 2019 | 15 | 8th June 2020 (UK) | Digital Download | Altitude Film Entertainment | Dir.Simon Bird | Monica Dolan, Earl Cave, Tamsin Greig, Rob Brydon, Grace Hogg-Robinson