Days of the Bagnold Summer
This isn’t bad! Erstwhile Inbetweener Simon Bird offers a basically competent telling of Joff Winterhart’s graphic novel, a story of a mother and son forced to spend the summer holidays together after a planned trip falls through. In the drowning boredom of unspecified English suburbia, they argue and make up, antagonise and reconcile.
There’s very little new here but Bird pays attention to his compositions, has an eye for the trivial detail, and encourages a set of fine performances, particularly from Monica Dolan as the exasperated mum, whose unfussy demeanour is undergirded by a quietly suggested historical trauma.
Earl Cave, who by obligation we must point out is Nick’s son, plays a heavy-metal obsessed teenager partly invested in some vague idea of rebellion. His absent father has fostered his resentment for his available mother, in turn producing insular squabbling and extended periods of longing, frustration and melancholy.
The general tone is light and amusing. Rob Brydon passes convincingly as a slippery, middle-aged disreputable; Alice Lowe endears as the frank counsel; and Tamsin Grieg plays up to the tropes of the new age mystic (a bafflingly popular archetype in British comedy). An awkward series of panicked phone calls provides the funniest, squirmiest moment, a wryly observed agony of repetition.
The tedium and listlessness of the drawn-out summer is suggestively evoked, while the likeable art direction is exemplified in three ugly iron swallows that adorn the kitchen wall. The family home could be any lower-middle class household in Middle England’s sprawling overspill. Pace lags come the middle act and we have zero character development; everyone is just as funny or as quirky or as upstanding as they were to begin with.
Cake icing offers the satisfied motif of maternal affection, one that focuses a seemingly abrupt and borderline twee ending. It is Dolan’s revelation of lost love that forms the central affecting and dramatic point, in a film that otherwise could only have been ever soundtracked by Belle and Sebastian.
Days of the Bagnold Summer does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Locarno Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Locarno Film Festival website here.