Summer of ’72
Directed by Phil Harder, Summer of ’72 is the story of a young man, Billy, from Alabama, who falls in love with a patient from a psychiatric ward. Based on the novel by Glasgow Phillips, the movie starts with documentary footage of the speech on segregation by famous US politician and four-time governor of Alabama George Wallace: “I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever!” Thus the theme of the movie is established.
Although the it revolves around a love story, this is not a romance, rather an exploration of racial segregation as it was in the US in the early 70s, and how it still lingers in society today. Billy spends his life smoking pot and hanging out with his best friend Nigel, an African American civil rights fighter.
In the action surrounding the patient, Virginia, there is an attempt to show that appearances are merely a facade: few will ever know the truth about psychiatric wards, what is done to the patients or if they really need the treatment. With the introduction of the young female character, viewers are also alerted to the continuing issue of women’s rights.
Harder’s direction leads at times to some insincere and forced acting, and it’s not clear what his conscious intention is. Likewise, the cinematography, which tries to explore different ways of telling the story, is daring at times but repeatedly ineffective. All this is often confusing and has a sense of directorial doubt, which renders the picture somewhat naive.
At some point in the story Billy describes Virginia: “She might be crazy or she might be the sanest person I ever met”. The same could be said of Summer of ’72: it’s either fascinating in its almost experimental delivery style, or it’s unbearable to watch.
Summer of ’72 is released digitally on demand on 21st February 2001.
Watch the trailer for Summer of ’72 here: