The title of this film and the fact that the festival notes describe it as an “eccentric and lively gem from the Canary Islands” might lead you to expect a light-hearted drama or quirky comedy. In fact, The Summer Side is full of anger, grief, screeching and family angst which teeters on hysteria – but its eccentricity and sense of farce give it a certain refreshing charm.
The story follows a dysfunctional extended family as it tries to cope with the death of a husband/father/son/brother and brother-in-law.
One of the central – and seemingly most well-adjusted – characters is his daughter Tana (Macarena Gómez), who is studying at university but yearns to escape to Australia with her boyfriend. She returns to the family home to support her mother and two sisters, but ends up embroiled in the ensuing chaos and raucous squabbling among her relatives.
Tana’s grandmother hates her mother and can’t even refrain from shouting at her at the morgue; her aunts are constantly bickering and back-stabbing for reasons that aren’t entirely clear; one of her sisters is in love with a drug-dealing, two-timing lowlife, and the other is balanced on a precipice.
Writer/director Antonia San Juan also has a starring role as Aunt Carmen, who seems the most bitter and anguished of them all. She is already struggling to come to terms with the fact that her son Tomas (Eduardo Casanova) is gay and is in a bitter feud with her sister; what she doesn’t realise is that more shocks are in store.
Perhaps something is lost in translation with all the shouting in Spanish and the English subtitles, but at times it’s hard to tell just how everyone is related and why they’re all so cranky. As for who is sleeping with whom … well, you almost need a flow chart to keep track.
Nonetheless, beneath all the melodrama, this film does have a heart. It also features an impressive cast, especially Gomez and the Casanova, who play the two softest and most endearing characters. Amid all the drama, this pair offers a glimmer of hope.
The Spanish Film Festival is at Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas in Adelaide until June 23. The Summer Side is showing on Friday at 6.30pm and Saturday at 1.45pm. The full festival program is online.
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