Summertime tells of a forbidden love between country pumpkin Delphine and effervescent Parisian activist Carole. The film is a lesbian love story set in the early seventies in a burgeoning feminist movement in a period of transition in France’s political and social landscape. The relationship between the two would have been enough as a premise of the story, however director Catherine Corsini adds more to the mix, too much, and ends up diluting the story by introducing banal and superficial subplots.
Delphine is played by well known French rock star Izia Higelin; a charming twenty something tomboy from a farm in the French region of Limousin, living with her parents, having the odd closeted affairs with local farm girls. Carole, played by Cecile De France, is a liberal, straight, Spanish teacher as well as a passionate activist in a long term relationship with a man. France is a well known Belgian actress, who has also courted with Hollywood, with starring roles in film such as Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter. They are both tremendous as Delphine and Carole, fitting into their characters with such ease; effortlessly cool with beautiful flowing locks, centre partings, loose paisley shirts, bell bottoms, smoking cigarettes, talking about female empowerment. Its makes for great screen time!
Delphine moves to Paris where she comes across a feminist activist group spearheaded by Carole. Developing a crush on Carole, she joins the group and slowly makes her way to befriending Carole and eventually they become lovers. Delphine has to return to Limousin after her father falls ill. Carole decides to visit her, strolling into Limousin with her Parisian swagger, waving her feminist flag, providing a pleasant distraction at first, but once the truth about the relationship is revealed, the waters truly get tested, and everyone’s morals come to the surface.
The film lends itself to obvious comparisons with Abdellatif Kechiche’s controversial Blue Is The Warmest Colour. The fact that Kechiche’s film predates Summertime, does make it appear much less edgy and the beautiful sex scenes between the two seem rather tame. Corsini tries to introduce themes such as the current feminist issues, French agriculture or Delphine’s childhood friend; perhaps to add another layer to the film's main story, but in doing so it backfires on her. These half-hearted sub-lots seem a little flimsy and distract from the essence of the film. Perhaps Crosini could have focused in on Delphine’s and Carole’s relationship even further, delving deeper into their dealings with Carole’s partner or/and Delphine’s family, and their reaction to such a relationship; it would have provided the much needed shock and realness to their drama. It is not to say that Corsini doesn’t touch on these points; but she does so in such a general, non-committed way, you don’t get a true sense of how a lesbian relationship would have worked out at the time. Saying this, the film is enjoyable to watch, primarily for its two impressive leads, as well as the beauty of the French countryside.