Summertime Review

Summertime is a surprisingly bland and unimaginative translation of the original French title, La Belle Saison, which captures the spirit of this delightful film far more effectively. The story opens on a rural farm in France in the 1970s, where Delphine (Izia Higelin) works with her father and mother. She is strong and energetic, but it is clear that her life there feels constricted by convention and limited options (including romantic ones). So she heads for Paris, where she bumps into a feminist demonstration. A group of infectiously high-spirited women are challenging Gallic patriarchy, and it's hardly a shock when Delphine joins in, especially since she is clearly attracted to Carole (Cecile de France).

The film continues down that path for a while, before events back home force Delphine to go back to the farm at short notice. Carole, who is by now as much in love with Delphine as Delphine is with her, decides to follow. This means that a conservative rural French backwater is faced with the prospect of confronting lesbianism, something which is almost literally beyond their ken.

Initially Carole and Delphine are able to maintain a public front of just being very good friends, but we all know that that can't last, and that therefore some very tough decisions are going to have to be made.

The strength of the film lies in a number of areas. First, the believability of the main characters. Delphine, in particular, is a very appealing heroine. She has the core strength (both emotional and physical) to deal with the difficulties she faces; she also has an inner beauty that transcends conventional good looks. Carole, on the other hand, is just plain beautiful, but she is also a very credible character, in her element in Paris, and initially able to maintain that facade down on the farm. I especially loved the awkward transitions between Delphine, Carole and Delphine's mother, who is happy (at first) to welcome her daughter's new friend, but gradually realises there's more to this relationship than meets the eye.

Director Corsini's best known film (in the UK) so far is Leaving, in which Kristin Scott Thomas looks for new horizons by leaving her husband; La Belle Saison shares an element of those themes, but approaches them with more warmth and subtlety. The portrayal of the 70s is another bonus, as is the sensual and erotic depiction of the love affair between the two women.

Even the ending - always a tricky area to negotiate - manages to avoid some of the obvious potential pitfalls. There are no easy answers, but it feels true enough to leave you feeling satisfied.

Overall

Beautifully filmed and acted French drama combining feminism and gay love.

8

out of 10

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