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If you’re looking for something to help you get over the recent disappointment of Jurassic World Dominion, then your search may have to continue beyond this debut flick from director Alice Millar that’s gone on digital release this week. Summer in the Shade ends up a brave but misguided stab at mixing adolescent angst with psychological thrills.
The summer in question is that of 1997, which means that this movie’s nowhere near as memorable as those heady days for those who can recall them. However, it does manage to rescue itself from being instantly forgettable.
For best friends Grace (Niamh Walter) and Asta (Nyobi Hendry) this most significant of holidays in their young lives is to unfold down in Cornwall. That’s actually about all the first ten minutes tells us, rendering it rather pointless in a sense. No real hint at a storyline is provided; don’t show and don’t tell is perhaps a little too cryptic.
Which means that although there is some kind of mysterious and chilling tone set early on, it’s ultimately just a cheap and nasty one. From here on in, we do get to find out that Summer in the Shade is a coming-of-age piece, so from here the test is can it pack a punch in terms of originality and inventiveness?
While we’re waiting for the answer to that, we get a mish-mash of surreal dream sequences and teen/pre-teen woes that just add to the confusion. This will doubtless appeal to those who enjoy a hefty slice of psychoanalysis as part of their movie diet, but that’s probably about all. A couple of premature third-act solutions, along with a lack of flow in terms of scene transitions, make it even more difficult to interpret.
If this film was to be summarised in a TV guide, you’d be unsure what to write and how to sell it to someone who’d be wondering whether to gamble nearly an hour-and-a-half of their life. It’s also as if it seems like it’s trying and failing to be a horror at times, so categorising it would also be no mean feat.
But it’s not all bad news. The cinematography is decent and does convey an eerie, menacing air now and again, occasionally complementing the everyday issues of adolescence. After nearly 50 minutes, Summer in the Shade does start to grip you slightly, and a little while after this we have the best scene of the lot.
Yet if this had unfolded at least half-an-hour earlier, the movie could have commanded its audience with so much more authority. Things could’ve been so different, but the seeds of its downfall were sown early doors. So the answer to the question posed at the end of paragraph four of this review, is no, not really.
Which is a shame, as it could have shone brighter had it taken a different direction. Although we do eventually get a handle on what Summer in the Shade is all about, it ends up more of a lost soul than its heroine.
Summer in the Shade was made available to download from 20th June.