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A poignant tale of loss in Summer 1993

Story of six-year-old who is taken to live in the hills outside Barcelona after losing both parents is told with clarity, warmth and sensitivity

13 July, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Bruna Cusí and David Verdaguer in Summer 1993

Directed by Carla Simón
Certificate 12a

AT the centre of this semi-autobiographical film is the confusion of grief, of new beginnings, of not really understanding why something has happened and not being clear about your place in it: Summer 1993 tells the story of a six-year-old whose mother has recently died and who has already lost her father.

Frida (Laia Artigas) has been taken to live in the hills outside Barcelona with her uncle Esteve (David Verdaguer), aunt Marga (Bruna Cusí), and their daughter Anna (Paula Robles).

She has lost her mother to Aids-related pneumonia, and her new guardians know she must be shown love and handled carefully, but even with the greatest amount of care, Frida is facing a frightening realisation that her mother has gone forever, and how a child can possibly begin to process the sense of loneliness and how adults respond is a crucial element to the storytelling.

This is a Catalonia childhood where the Spanish countryside plays a role, too – Frida’s sense of loss and the atmosphere of new surroundings acts as a further sign of the impact of grief has.

The director drew on her own memories and the film has an element of recreating real events through the prism of an adult coming to terms with the mental images stored up by her younger self. It gives it a further layer of truth and makes the viewer feel even more connected to the characters on screen.

“I have told my story so many times, and because of that it kind of turned into a legend, into something that happened to me but at the same time feels like a tale,” she says.

“Memories, family stories, imagination… everything got mixed in my mind when I started writing the script. I guess that’s why it was quite easy to put together a first draft, because I wrote from images that I had inside. However, it was a bit harder to give some structure to all these images.

“That’s why I decided to preserve this feeling of ‘little moments,’ picturing something similar to my first summer with my new family.”

But this isn’t laid out like a first-person narrative, rather more like the viewer is offered an insight to the experience of being orphaned as a child, and the range of emotions this has created.

It is quite a feat of film-making to portray such a story with clarity, warmth and sensitivity, something Simón has done extremely well.


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