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New Release Review - SUMMERTIME

A young woman's burgeoning romance is threatened when she is forced to run the family farm.





Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Catherine Corsini

Starring: Cecile De France, Izia Higelin, Noemie Lvovsky, Kevin Azais



French cinema has offered us plenty of drab dramas in which pragmatic men fall for hot but crazy women. Summertime may change the gender dynamic, but it's no more interesting.



Like those films aimed at senior citizens and Christians, Queer Cinema has a guaranteed audience. Increasingly, it feels like that audience is being taken for granted. Too many gay-themed movies feature protagonists undeveloped beyond their sexuality, and it seems a test may need to be introduced whereby the question of whether a film's characters would still be interesting if they were straight needs to be asked.

The latest to fail such a hypothetical test is Catherine Corsini's Summertime, a romantic drama that offers little but proof that gay relationships can be every bit as dull as straight ones.


In 1970s France, when her secret lesbian lover decides to "go straight" and marry a local lad, Delphine (Izia Higelin) heads off to Paris and soon finds herself caught up in the burgeoning Women's Rights movement. There she falls for Carole (Cecile de France), who promptly leaves her boyfriend and engages in a steamy romance with Delphine.

Everything seems to be going well for Delphine; away from the squinting windows of her rural village, she's now able to live her life on her own terms in the big city. But her contented existence doesn't last long. Delphine's father suffers a stroke, prompting her to return home to help her mother (Noemie Lvovsky) run the farm. Carole insists on joining her, but her narcissistic behaviour threatens to make life difficult for Delphine, who is terrified of the repercussions of coming out in her conservative, rural community.


Summertime's early scenes are riveting, as Corsini paints an energetic portrait of a nation shaking off its Catholic past and fighting to establish a new, secular nation based on equality. We see Delphine and her new friends bust a gay man out of an asylum, where he's been sent to be "cured", a stark but inspiring reminder of how far Europe has come. This opening act plays like Mia Hansen-Love's Eden, with Dj-ing replaced by radical (for the time) politics, and it makes for an inspiring watch.

It's when Delphine returns to the farm that the movie loses its way. It's difficult to buy into the central relationship, which appears, intentionally or not, to be built around nothing but physical lust. Carole is an unpleasant figure, so self-obsessed and possessive of her lover that she's willing to destroy Delphine's relationship with her parents. In one scene, she reveals the details of the relationship to Delphine's catatonic father. It's an immensely cruel act, one more befitting the villain of a psycho-thriller than a romantic lead. It's never made clear what age Carole is, but she's played by an actress in her forties, which makes the character seem annoyingly immature.


The central dramatic hook of whether Delphine can keep her secret from the local yokels never really goes anywhere, and the film's most interesting aspect - Delphine's fear of how her mother would react to learning her daughter is a lesbian - is short-changed, Lvovsky's permanently apron clad mother given as much depth as the housekeeper in a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

French cinema has offered us plenty of drab dramas in which pragmatic men fall for hot but crazy women. Summertime may change the gender dynamic, but it's no more interesting.

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