Writer: Isobel Boyce
Director: Alice Millar
The opening section of Alice Millar’s directorial debut instantly sets the scene – ominous music plays over a montage of close family bonds, a reliance on the beliefs of the catholic church and innocence – the innocence of a generation who grew up away from the immediacy of instant digital gratification, of now. Where playing in the streets and local exploration still stands high on the lists of personal entertainment.
Grace (Niamh Walter) is 13 years old, and the world around her is changing just as fast as she is. With the impending separation of her parents, a holiday with her friend Asta (Nyobi Hendry) and her liberal mother Kate (Rebecca Palmer) to Cornwall, leads to a summer of self-discovery in this latest cinematic “coming of age tale”.
Isobel Boyce’s screenplay has an interesting premise, with plenty of dark symbolism running throughout. Boyce clearly has the potential to create a really gripping, dark feature, however, this isn’t the feature that will showcase that. Millar’s slow pace and a tendency to allow dialogue to come across in a strange and almost stagnant way push the viewer away from any connection with the characters that they are trying so hard to ensure take place.
Benjamin J Murray’s cinematography is beautiful to look at, the choice of the muted colouration lends itself perfectly to capturing the more recent past on the screen. This alongside a strong and very promising performance from Walter ensures that not all is lost
Summer in the Shade isn’t the runaway success that perhaps Boyce and Miller hoped it would be. There are some strong and tender moments that show some real depth however, the majority of it feels a little heavy-handed and manipulative in trying to get the viewer to feel a certain way.
While it certainly isn’t the worst film in its genre, it certainly isn’t the best. Its reliance on trying to weave so many characters into the main plot, means we lose focus on the central premise of Niamh exploring who she is and for that one can’t help but feel that Summer in the Shade is a heavily missed opportunity for not only showing the talents of Boyce but also for Millar in establishing a strong and powerful debut film.
Summer in the Shade is available on Digital Download from 20 June.