The Movie Waffler New Release Review [DIGITAL] - DAYS OF THE BAGNOLD SUMMER | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review [DIGITAL] - DAYS OF THE BAGNOLD SUMMER

days of the bagnold summer review
A teenage boy is forced to endure his worst nightmare - spending the summer with his mother.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Simon Bird

Starring: Earl Cave, Monica Dolan, Tamsin Greig, Alice Lowe, Rob Brydon, Tim Key



As you grow older and come to the sad realisation that they won't be around forever, you begin to cherish the company of your parents. When you're a teenager however, mortality is far from your mind, and it feels like the oldies will be always be getting in your way, killing your buzz at every given opportunity. Most of us resent our parents when we're teens, and why wouldn't we? Their job is literally to keep you out of trouble, and when you're a teen, all you want to do is find trouble.

In actor Simon Bird's directorial debut, an adaptation of Joff Winterhart's 2012 graphic novel Days of the Bagnold Summer, 15-year-old Daniel (Earl Cave, son of Nick) finds himself stuck with his mum, Sue (Monica Dolan), whom he considers "the most boring person in the world" for his summer holidays when his Florida based Dad pulls the plug on his plans to spend six weeks in his company.


days of the bagnold summer review

Sue is quite happy at the prospect of spending time with her son, though heaven knows why. He's a surly little shit who treats her with the sort of contempt and disrespect that would have seen him take a severe beating a couple of generations back. As Sue tries to provide structure to Daniel's summer - forcing him to drop CVs into local shops that would never hire such a miserable underage tyke in a million years - Daniel prefers to retreat into his earphones and his beloved Heavy Metal. Daniel dreams of one day fronting his own band, and when he answers an advert from a local band seeking just such a frontman...well, let's just say the twist is one of the film's more comic beats.

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Bird's film is told in such a light and breezy manner that it's easy to overlook just how much sadness is bubbling under the surface. Ostensibly it's a simple tale of a typical teenage plonker failing to recognise just how much he owes his single mother, only to gradually begin to realise there's more to her than he initially figured. But scrape away the colourful veneer of Simon Tindall's cinematography, which resolutely avoids British indie clich├ęs of grey skies for a more American influenced sunny sheen, and Belle and Sebastian's chirpy score, and you'll find Days of the Bagnold Summer is a story about repression and sacrifice, and how mothers sometimes just need to break out in an uncontrollable crying fit once in a while.


days of the bagnold summer review

There's a subplot that Bird treats so flimsily that it might easily be dismissed, and it concerns Sue's reminiscences of a boy she dated when she was a teen herself. The young man was considered a bit of a weirdo by most, but Sue saw something in him, and was deeply hurt by his suicide. Unable to understand Daniel's seeming rage at the world and his nihilistic attitude, Sue begins to worry that her son may be destined for a similar outcome. Behind her stodgy fussiness and cringey failure to communicate with Daniel is a very scared, very alone mother.

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But as I said, such concerns are kept very much beneath the surface of what is otherwise a charming tale of a son slowly realising that the father he idolises may not not be all he's built him up to be, and that his true friend is his put-upon Mum (in this sense it's a minor companion to Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale). Days of the Bagnold Summer is a film of simple delights, so simple that they may feel inconsequential to some viewers. The performances of Cave and Dolan are so great, yet so unshowy, that you begin to view them as a real life parent and child, so comfortable are they in their unique discomfort.


days of the bagnold summer review

Bird's direction is similarly subtle, but he employs some beautiful little moments of editing, such as a wonderful cut from a concrete overpass to an idyllic country road, as though both are linked parts of some giant Scalextric set. Pay attention also to how Sue and Daniel occupy the frame, and how the space between them gradually lessens as they begin to bond. Such subtleties won't win Bird much notice from Awards groups who consider the best directing as equivalent to the most directing, but as your Mum might say, when you're older you'll understand these things.

Days of the Bagnold Summer is on UK/ROI Digital June 8th.




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