Earl Cave and Monica Dolan co-star in “Days of the Bagnold Summer” that follows a heavy metal loving teenager, Daniel, and his polar opposite librarian mother Sue.
After his father fails to take him in for summer vacation in Florida, Daniel must learn to live and get along with his mother in a sleepy British suburb.“Days of the Bagnold Summer” would certainly be classified as a coming-of-age film, it reminded of films from the 90’s and 00’s, but without the goal for Daniel being losing his virginity or obtaining a girlfriend.
School was also not a running theme in this movie, it was actually quite the contrary. Daniel only really seemed to be discovering himself and learning to live with how different he was from his mother and the few other suburban British teenagers he encountered, with only his friend Ky (Elliot Speller-Gillott) having anything in common with him.
The aspect that truly separated this piece from other genre examples was the intersecting story line of Daniel’s mother Sue, and how the film was not about Daniel’s relationship with his peers, but rather with his mother. As an audience member I empathized with Sue, she was gentle and unsure of herself, and even in Daniel’s fits of rage she found a way to be kind and not take any of it personally.
Sue even went through struggles in her love life when Daniel’s history teacher Ian (Rob Brydon) asked her out on a date. Initially thought to be genuine and a nice man, it turned out Ian was a player who treated every date as pedestrian and only used Sue as a conquest.
My heart broke a little for her when prince charming turned out to be not so much. I could relate to that feeling of disappointment, and was touched by some tender moments where Daniel tried to protect his mom.As an overall though, I didn’t really get a firm on the films’ message. I saw a relationship between a mother and a son and how their experiences shaped them, but I did not see either go through any sort of significant change where I could grab onto it and identify it as the meaning behind the film.
All of the scenes did not really come together to create one strong whole, the plot sort of just plodded along without clear direction and the pieces of the puzzle never connected. I found myself waiting for an a-ha! moment that was never realized. Taking a risk by focusing the plot almost wholly on the teen’s relationship with his mother was appreciated, but I suppose there are reasons why coming-of-age films tend to show school and friends, it gives them more of a fun element that this was sorely missing, and it felt like everything was in slow motion.
My best guess as to why this happened is that the film is based on a 2012 novel by Joff Winterhart, but for some reason the adaptation of the text did not translate so much to screen as other strong examples in the genre, i.e. “The Fault in Our Stars” (2014.) Sometimes certain stories are better read than viewed, and I think that’s what happened here.
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