My French Film Festival Review: Before Summer Ends (2017)
Victoria Russell | On 30, Jan 2018
Director: Maryam Goormaghtigh
Watch Before Summer Ends online in the UK: MUBI UK / Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / FilmDoo / Google Play
Before Summer Ends is one of 13 feature films released online as part of the 2018 My French Film Festival. Movies are available to buy and rent, with a selection of shorts available to stream for free. For more information, click here.
The road movie is arguably the most universal of all movie genres. It often enhances the importance of self-discovery and stresses the notion that there is a big wide whole world out there – a world that so many of us rarely get to see. Such is the case in Before Summer Ends (Avant la fin de l’ete), a documentary that examines the lives of three Iranian friends who have spent the past five years studying in Paris. Arash, however, has failed to adapt to the French way of living and makes the decision to return to his hometown in North Iran. His two best friends, Hossein and Ashkan, try and change his mind by encouraging him to take one final road trip before he heads back East.
The gang travel from Paris across the beautiful countryside, making several pitstops along the way, including a village parade, fun fair, and local campsite where the friends embark on typical activities like swimming. Although their journey is mainly fun-filled, the film explores fundamental and everyday subjects that the majority of us would often overlook. Questions about family, money and religion come into play, as well as Arash’s real reasons for returning home, which he exposes in a rather touching and choking scene. “Solitude can make you unhappy”, he says, “I have no one to bond with here.”
Before Summer Ends is the first feature documentary from director Maryam Goormaghtigh and screened last year at Cannes. It is clear from the get-go that Goormaghtigh is a compassionate filmmaker and one whom does not take isolation and uncertainly in vain. She constantly juxtaposes the Western qualities of France with that of East’s Iran, not only by incorporating both French and Farsi, but also French and Iranian music – a moment beautifully captured in the film’s climax when Arash sings a well-known Iranian song on the beach, not long after he danced with a female companion to The Coasters’ Down in Mexico.
While the film is technically a documentary, the characters and themes mirror that of a traditional road movie. Scenes such as the trio talking about life’s purpose, as the light from a campfire reflects their faces, mirror classic coming-of-age movies, and the longing for companionship and erasure of solitude does nothing but remind you of Wim Wender’s Paris Texas. None of this is unintentional, and its qualities like this that spur the tranquillity and compassion that fans of the road movie expect. However, there are moments throughout that leave you wanting more, urging you to poke the characters to spark some sort of closure and satisfaction.
Before Summer Ends explores the typical themes that generally surface in a road movie, mainly exploring the characters’ self-discovery and questioning life’s great philosophical purpose. However, while the topics are by no means original, the central characters are undoubtedly the driving force of the film. Arash’s sweet and humble nature is supported by Hossein and Ashkan’s humorous and appreciative manner. The result is a delightful and somewhat refreshing documentary, one that exudes the importance of friendship and how, despite being in a foreign place, you really can get by with a little help from your friends.
Before Summer Ends is available on MUBI UK, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.