Dutch director Colette Bothof and acclaimed screenwriter Marjolein Bierens have created an incredible coming-of-age story of outgrowing small-town life, awakening to one’s sexuality and finding love. The cinematographer, Goert Giltay, does an incredible job with the images, the colours, and in creating a domineering visual presence of the power plant, which is a central motif to the movie. It almost becomes a character, driving the plot from beginning to end.
The scene in which the main character Anne (Sigrid ten Napel) spies on newcomer Lena (Jade Olieberg) is simply breathtaking: her blond hair acts as camouflage in a field of hay. It echoes the ways in which Anne, a shy and introverted young girl, nicknamed “Ms. Silence,” has been blending into her small town life. With the arrival of Lena, who rides into Anne’s life like a dark knight on a black stallion (her motorcycle), she pops her head out, begins to speak, desire and act, becoming a catalyst of change.
Change, in fact, is the central theme of Summer. Arguably, it began when Anne’s older brother, De Peer (Martijn Lakemeier) decided to leave the house and settle in the shed. He had had enough of his mother, whose many illnesses she blames on the power plant, telling him what to do. De Peer is popular, and along with his friends, he often steals his parents’ car to go to the beach or to get drunk in the woods around a fire. Anne follows him, and while other boys make advances, she stays reclusive. The quotidian in her small town is documented beautifully, from the ritualized bike rides along winding roads, to church and disco; the background music by Fons Merkies makes it all pulsate vividly. But Bierens’ writing doesn’t omit the ugly amid the beautiful.
There is mental illness (Anne’s little brother), babies without fathers, domestic violence, rape, forced marriage, suicide and death. The silences these moments produce make them resonate with a force that escapes words. They also speak to the culture of violence normalized by small town mentalities without stereotyping these intense and complex human experiences. Don’t miss this movie. Of all the lesbian narratives showcased this year, it is my personal favourite.
Summer plays at 6:30 p.m. on the closing night of the Inside Out Festival, Sunday October 25 at the Bytown Cinema.