DAYS OF THE BAGNOLD SUMMER (12)
DAYS OF THE BAGNOLD SUMMER (12)
Director: Simon Bird
Cast: Monica Dolan, Earl Cave, Rob Brydon, Alice Lowe, Tamsin Greig, Elliot Speller-Gillot, Tim Key
Synopsis: An idle summer in the lives of schoolboy Daniel, a shy fifteen-year-old heavy metal fan and his librarian mother Sue, 52. This is the summer holiday that Daniel is due to spend with his father and his father’s pregnant new wife in Florida. But his trip is cancelled at the last minute, leaving Sue and Daniel facing the prospect of six long weeks together.
Simon Bird’s impressive directorial debut is an adaptation of the eponymous, award winning graphic novel by Joff Winterhart, with a score by Belle and Sebastian.
Best known for playing uptight Will in The Inbetweeners (TV 2008-2010 and films 2011 and 2014) and sneery, squabbling Adam in Friday Night Dinner (TV 2011- ), Bird returns to his familiar theme of adolescent angst in the suburbs for Days of the Bagnold Summer.
Thrash metal fan Daniel (Earl Cave – son of Nick!) and his mother Sue (Monica Dolan) share the same living space but are worlds apart. Librarian Sue is a mild mannered, inoffensive, sensible single parent, while Daniel is a scowling, gloomy mass of rage that is only articulated in music he regards as ‘my religion’. When Daniel’s summer trip to his father in America is cancelled at the last minute, he faces the prospect of six weeks of ‘quality time’ with his mother.
In quiet suburban Bromley, the lank-haired, moody metalhead makes half-hearted attempts to get a part-time job, whilst hanging out with his equally metal-obsessed but rather more upbeat friend Ky (Elliot Speller-Gillott), who encourages him to look for a band to join. However, for the six weeks, he is largely forced to spend time with his mother, their relationship defined by tension, and by Daniel’s sulky, resentful dismissal of his despairing parent.
As the school holidays drag on, Sue goes on a date with Daniel’s history teacher, played with unctuous smarm by Rob Brydon, and forces her son to the seaside in an effort to bond with him.
The authentic humour in Lisa Owen’s script relies on disconnected exchanges between mother and son, that betray an underlying melancholy and their need for love. Through Daniel’s anguish Sue is also prompted to reflect on her own youth and wonder about what might have been.
An excellent ensemble cast includes Alice Lowe as Sue’s younger sister and Tamsin Greig as Ky’s new age style, masseuse mother, both in their very different ways trying to rebuild Sue’s confidence and bring her out of herself. Tim Key has a memorable cameo involving Daniel in a seaside fudge-making demonstration which only belittles him, highlighting his teenage insecurities.
Despite being the epitome of English reserve and tradition, Sue does carry out a quick internet search for clues as to her son’s behaviour, but the depression or other mental health problems that both might be suffering are understated.
This bittersweet coming of age film is impressively directed, boasting a colourful, pastel pallet and underlying sense of fun and optimism, with many laugh out loud moments.
The frequent static camera shots use the design of the family suburban home to emphasise the mother and son’s emotional alienation. Nevertheless Days of the Bagnold Summer is an endearing, recognisable and accessible film for anyone who has faced problems in puberty, or, indeed, struggled to connect with a recalcitrant parent or teenage family member.
Streaming on digital platforms in the UK & Ireland from Monday 8 June.
Images courtesy of: Altitude