VOD film review: Summertime (La Belle Saison)
Need for a longer 1st act8
Ian Loring | On 16, Jul 2016
Director: Catherine Corsini
Cast: Catherine Corsini, Laurette Polmanss
Watch Summertime online in the UK: BBC iPlayer / Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
With the incessant whining of idiots bemoaning the presence of women kicking ass and being funny in Ghostbusters at the moment, it feels like the release of Summertime has somewhat captured a zeitgeist. What better way to drown out the screeds of madmen than to indulge in two women falling in love in 1970s France against a beautiful but melancholic backdrop of a society, which isn’t ready to accept this?
Catherine Corsini’s bittersweet tale of a farm girl and militant Parisian teacher getting together feels like a mashing together of Blue Is the Warmest Colour and Brooklyn, although there are certainly differences. Interestingly, it is Izla Higelin’s Delphine, the girl from the farming community in the big city for the first time, who seduces Cecil De France’s previously heterosexual Carole, a blossoming that is maybe a little rushed, but the two have chemistry in spades.
This is especially important in the film’s second half, where events conspire to split the pair up, as Delphine returns to her former life as a very much changed person. Without each other’s company, the two feel less complete – even the lighting in Carole’s scenes is dimmed, the world literally not as bright without her love. While that is maybe a touch heavy-handed, the performances never go to any histrionic places and when they do get together, the film feels as if it breathes out again. (There is an extended section where events on-screen are frankly delightful – singing, dancing and joking about abounds and spending time with the characters becomes a real delight.)
The society of the time, and one suspects it could be the same now, obviously had problems with this kind of relationship and that is explored later on, as the passion between the two raises suspicions from the wider world. The sense of fighting for the one you love is very much up for debate here, with Delphine pulled in equally compelling directions and Corsini doing a fantastic job in never letting you be sure which way she will finally go. That leads to a final 10 minutes or so, which ramp up tension to an uncomfortable degree, despite little in the way of even raised voices.
Summertime does a wonderful job in portraying love’s first blooming, as well as potentially relationship-ending dilemmas. It is not often you can say that a film could do with being longer but it genuinely could have helped here. Great performances, a lovely look and quietly devastating material combine to make a real treat. Who knows? It might work quite well as a double-bill with Ghostbusters.
Summertime is available on BBC iPlayer until 16th October 2019.