The work of a critic is essentially advising you, our loyal readers, whether a film is worth watching or not. You depend on us with your hard-earned cash to not waste your money and find that little gem that will pay off not only the cash you spent but more importantly, the time you invested in said film. But film is ultimately about taste and your taste. Not all films are for everyone but for the right people (that sounded pretentious, didn’t it?).
Here is that moment where I give a recommendation with a warning. Writer/director Carla Simón’s Summer 1993 is one of those films where following my recommendation requires you to fully understand what you’re walking into. It’s also my CYA plea, where I get to say, I told you upfront what this film is.
“…plots ways to passive-aggressively drive her 5-year-old cousin Anna and her Aunt Marga crazy.”
As the title suggests Summer 1993 takes place…well you know…but specifically in Barcelona, Spain. 8-year-old Frida (Laia Artigas) must move to the country after the death of her mother. Frida’s new guardians are her aunt Marga (Bruna Cusi) and uncle Esteve (David Verdaguer) along with their pre-school daughter Anna (Paula Robles).
It doesn’t take long for Frida to understand life is going to radically change, now that her parents are gone. She finds herself at odds with her stay-at-home aunt Marga, jealous of Anna’s relationship with her father, and plots ways to passive-aggressively drive her 5-year-old cousin Anna and her Aunt Marga crazy.
It is here our story takes that dark turn putting the lives of children in danger, but it doesn’t. It’s instilled in us as viewers to always expect the worst in humanity. Our brain creates unnecessary tension when the girls’ take a walk in the woods or go off swimming at the lake. But that tension is only in our minds (because we have to go there). Instead, Summer 1993 remains grounded to tell an authentic story of a child’s isolation and her attempt to cope with grief.
“…performances are never forced and their interactions are natural…”
Films starring children are a mixed bag. The kids are either incredibly bad actors or they are highly intelligent kids with a keen sense of their emotions and overly introspective. In this case, Artigas and Robles are just kids acting like kids. While they never attempt to be Dakota Fanning, their performances are relaxed and their interactions are natural. They would make good improvisers. On the downside, you are watching kids act like kids for 90-minutes.
Ultimately Summer 1993 is the classic foreign, indie film about a little girl coping with loss, which admittedly is not for everyone. Simple story, no big studio glitz-and-glamor and an emotional payoff at the end the works for the most part. So when you complain that I made you watch a film about two kids, just know I told you so.
Summer 1993 (2018) Directed by Carla Simón. Written by Carla Simón and Valenita Viso. Starring Laia Artigas, Paula Robles, Bruna Cusí, and David Verdaguer.
3 out of 5 stars