Now That’s What I Call Quite Good: Summer Things

summer things index
Desperate to get away right now during these cold and wet times but simply can’t afford it? Well you could do far worse than watch Summer Things, a relaxed, breezy, warm and gentle French comedy which will make you feel like you’ve had the break you might so desperately need. Essentially a farce, but not laboured or cliched in the way that so many seem to be, this tells of two families with a fragile friendship who vacation in the same sleepy sea side village. And as always seems to be the case in this kind of film, the characters end up variously in bed with each other or at each other’s throats.

When Bertand (Jacques Dutronic) decides not to go on vacation at the last moment, his wife Elizabeth (Charlotte Rampling) goes with Julie (Clotilde Courau), one of Bertand’s ex-lovers, her almost bankrupt friends Veronique (Karin Viard) and Jerome, as well as there son Loic (Gaspard Ulliel). They become friends with Lulu (Carole Bouquet) and her extremely paranoid husband Jean-Pierre (director Michel Blanc), and thus the farce begins, as various characters fall for each other, attempt suicide and grow insanely jealous. But as the holiday goes on there lives mostly begin to improve as they learn more and more about themselves and each other. There is a slightly pointless subplot where Charlotte and Bertand’s daughter Emelie (Lou Doillon) and her boyfriend travel to Chicago and seek out a hedonistic lifestyle, but it’s brief enough not to spoil the film.

Rampling turns in one of those sumptuous performances, warm, gentle and at times subtly sexy as her character gradually relaxes in to the holiday and by the end she emerges in charge of her life. This is an ongoing theme for most of the characters as they come to terms with the lives they have and learn how have some control over them, bar one or two of the characters. As with most French films, or at least those which make it over to this country, all the performances are superb and made many a career (or boosted those whose careers were firmly established), and despite the large cast no one can be faulted in the slightest.

Directed by Michel Blanc (best known as an actor in films like Monsieur Hire and The Girl On A Train) it’s well shot and fairly sumptuous to view with a witty and fun script. The only downside to the film is that it is rather flimsy, it’s central message is fine but not particularly groundbreaking and it isn’t a movie which you’ll really desire to see again or at least not for a good decade or two. Yet even though it might fade from memory quickly, like all the best vacations while present you really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Alex Finch.

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