Un Été Comme Ça (That Kind of Summer)
“Don’t expect to be healed here,” the director of a Quebecois retreat for hypersexual girls tells them in the film’s opening sequence. Supervision is loose; in this judgement-free space no sexual thoughts or acts are expressly forbidden. The girls latch onto social worker Sami, the only male in the facility, and attempt to seduce him. Meanwhile, the project’s supervisor Octavia, a visiting academic from Germany, is occupied with relationship troubles of her own.
So much of Canadian director Denis Côté’s fourth entry to the Berlinale seems utterly arbitrary: why is the audience introduced to these specific characters, who barely differ from one another? It begs the question why the filmmaker didn’t choose to tell the story of the first group of girls, who participated in this psychological experiment, whom Octavia is told “were much worse”. What is the point of Mathilde introducing the experiment, if she hands over leadership to Octavia almost immediately? The random duration of the retreat is even asked about in the film (“Why 26 days?” – “Because 30 is too long and 23 is too short”), and in similar fashion the film’s length makes no sense. The 137 minutes feel endless without a clear structure or purpose to the depicted events.
The cinematography jumps from extreme close-ups of faces, that give no indication of the character’s surroundings, to wide shots depicting their sexual exploits. While the sheer simplicity of the actions and almost under-acted performances speak to the intention of a realist style, one particular masturbation session is jarringly choreographed.
Hard pressed to find what Un Été Comme Ça is trying to tell the viewer, one could argue that the film would like to educate on matters of sexual behaviour seen as atypical for women. Truthfully, if presented by male characters, the protagonists’s actions would not be scrutinised. But while the young women’s desires are not treated as an illness on-screen, the compulsive nature thereof obviously impacts their daily lives. Therefore it is questionable if either the retreat or the film serve an actual purpose.
Un Été Comme Ça (That Kind of Summer) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.