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Days of the Bagnold Summer

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Days of the Bagnold Summer
dir Simon Bird
scr Lisa Owens
prd Matthew James Wilkinson
with Monica Dolan, Earl Cave, Rob Brydon, Tamsin Greig, Alice Lowe, Elliot Speller-Gillott, Grace Hogg-Robinson, Tim Key, Nathanael Saleh, George Wilkins, Alfie Todd, Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness
release US Oct.19 mvff,
UK 8.Jun.20
19/UK Altitude 1h26

brydon greig lowe
london film fest


dolan and cave
Beautifully observed with attention to witty detail, this movie feels like a British movie sitcom, with its episodic structure and snappy comebacks. Based on a graphic novel, the story is packed with riotously complex characters. And with his feature directing debut, Simon Bird nicely captures their humanity. Refreshingly, none of this is about major plot points: it's about two people who make the most of a remarkably dull summer.
After his trip to Florida to visit his dad is cancelled, metal-loving teen Daniel (Cave) has to send the summer in England with his mum Sue (Dolan), whose chirpy positivity is driving him around the bend. To make matters worse, no one wants to hire Daniel for a summer job, and then his teacher Douglas (Brydon) asks Sue out. Daniel spends most days hanging out with his pal Ky (Speller-Gillott), playing videogames and dreaming about getting into a band. Meanwhile, Ky's airy-fairy mother (Greig) and Sue's gossipy sister Carol (Lowe) offer Sue some dating advice.
Accompanied by a Bell & Sebastian song score, the film is consistently engaging. It helps that the characters are all so amiable, messy people who feel sometimes unnervingly realistic as they try to be better. Daniel's summer trip was cancelled because his dad's young wife is pregnant, so of course news of their new baby sister is less than thrilling to him. These kinds of everyday feelings are what drives the film along, effortlessly keeping the viewer involved with the sunny visuals and interaction that's dryly hilarious and sometimes darkly moving.

Dolan and Cave make a terrific central duo, bouncing off each other knowingly. Dolan makes Sue remarkably authentic, mixing comedy and pathos into every moment. And Cave gives Daniel his own internal yearning beneath the stringy hear, surly attitude and general embarrassment about everything. Side roles offer quietly hilarious moments for ace supporting scene-stealers like Brydon, Greig, Lowe and Key.

Bird skilfully mixes broad comedy gags alongside quiet scenes that play off subtly amusing emotional reactions. Simon Tindall's cinematography is brightly lit and colourful, offering its own wry commentary on people and places. So a day out to the seaside wonderfully plays on the connection and contrast between Sue's optimism and Daniel's nihilism. This is a lovely take on how life is a series of tiny events that often drown out the bigger, more important things. And it's also a film that leaves us with a smile, craving cake with extra icing.

cert 12 themes, language 10.May.20

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© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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