Summer 1993: A tale that proves childhood wounds never heal

Review: Catalonian film is, at its core, a sad, potentially tragic tale of emotional survival

Laia Artigas as Frida

Film Title: Summer 1993

Director: Carla Simón

Starring: Laia Artigas, Paula Robles, Bruna Cusí, David Verdaguer, Fermí Reixach, Montse Sanz, Isabel Rocatti

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 98 min

Fri, Jul 20, 2018, 05:00

   

It’s difficult to place a child in a sun-dappled version of the rural past without giving the impression you’re leaning towards the idyllic. There are little bits of that in Carla Simón’s delicate autobiographical drama – particularly for those who grew up somewhere less sunny than Catalonia – but Summer 1993 is, at its core, a sad, potentially tragic tale of emotional survival. It meanders. It ends almost randomly. But the truth of its emotions sticks in the mind.

The film opens with young Frida (Laia Artigas) leaving her flat in Barcelona for a new home in the nearby countryside. We learn that her mother has died of an Aids-related illness and that the girl is being tested for HIV. She will be staying with Uncle Esteve (David Verdaguer), Aunt Marga (Bruna Cusí), and her young cousin Anna (Paula Robles). Frida causes different sorts of trouble. She overreacts to small crises. She is occasionally cruel. We sense her unfamiliarity with the country and sympathise with her inability to process grief while adapting to new senses and experiences.

Simón deserves enormous praise for the sympathy with which she shoots the film. She has a preference for steady camera shots that allow characters to move outside the frame while we focus attention on the young subject. Life is going on around her and sometimes it leaves her behind. The family argue as if she can’t hear but – this feels like a memory dragged from Simón’s past – children understand and remember more than adults often believe. Often the subject of their discussions is Frida’s late mother. We never discover exactly what went on. But hints point us in gloomy directions.

As the film progresses, however, we get the sense that Frida is becoming more integrated into the family and is preparing for a new accommodation with life. The very existence of Summer 1993 nonetheless confirms that such deep wounds never fully heal. A touching, sincere vignette from a film-maker to watch.