Friday 9 February 2024

Summertime (2015)

This 2015 French film is really called 
La Belle Saison and director/writer Catherine Corsini is out to make a number of social, political, sexual orientation and prejudicial statements from an era when all these things were evolving in the early 1970's.

Young Delphine, played to perfection by Izïa Higelin (a successful musician in Europe by the way - going by just Izïa), has grown up in rural France on the family farm, loves it and her life there, but feels under pressure from the close-knit community, especially her parents, to marry a local boy with whom she has grown up through school. She works the farm hard and committedly.

Amongst this social pressure she resents and rejects, she has had a couple of close relationships with other girls. We see one in the storyline rejecting her because of that same social pressure and her, going off to cave in and marry a boy, even though she doesn't really want to.

Delphine isn't giving into that and so decides, whilst dad is still fit and healthy enough to run the farm, to go and 'find herself' by moving to Paris for a while. When she gets to the capital, she stumbles into a group of feminist activists going about their crusade and activities in order to raise the profile of their campaign. Equality for women and social respect for people who want to make choices about their lives and their bodies.

The leader of this group is the free-spirited Carole, also played beautifully by 
Cécile de France (High Tension, Russian Dolls, The French Dispatch, Chinese Puzzle), and they soon fall for each other and slowly build a personal and physical relationship. Carole's life is complicated too as she is living with her boyfriend Manuel, who is not happy about Carole's orientation swing when the truth comes out. The passion and chemistry of the two girls' relationship is explored and depicted on camera by the director in a 'no holds barred' way, with somewhat explicit nudity and sexual activity between the two leads.

Delphine's father collapses and is hospitalised, so she is now required by the family to return and work the farm in his place. He never recovers, so this depiction of family duty and responsibility remains a feature throughout the rest of the film. The desire to get away and be herself, pursuing her desires, up against traditional values and perceived responsibility to those close to her. So she goes home and does just that. However, Carole is so besotted with Delpine by now that she goes with her - and the middle part of the film depicts the pair of them sneaking around, working the farm, keeping their secret between them.

Eventually it gets out of course and the final part of the film rounds up the story as we discover what the pair do about their situation, how they scramble and fight to balance their personal desires with social expectation and duty to other people in their lives both in the village and Paris.

The backdrop might be the social turmoil and prejudice of the era, but this is very much an engaging love story as our two leads negotiate their plight. It's exceptionally moving with an intimate portrait and sprinkling of tragedy and heartbreak thrown in for good measure. We revisit the pair some years later in the end to have a peek at how the decisions they have made impacted their lives down the road.

The rural and urban landscapes are beautifully shot, the sets, dress and backdrop of the 1970's faithfully recreated with the director's eye for fine detail. It's very much not a 'tits and arse' film with the nudity and sex scenes being appropriately shot in keeping with the development of the story. It's an intelligent film which shares a snapshot of the times some of us lived through as a backdrop, whilst always being more about the evolving relationship between the two leads. Which is performed beautifully. Highly recommended.

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