Summer 1993 review Laia ArtigasYear: 2018
Director(s): Carla Simón
Writer(s): Carla Simón, Valentina Viso
Region of Origin: Spain

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Rating: n/a
Color, 97 mins

Synopsis: Six-year-old Frida is sent to her uncle’s family to live with them in the countryside. But Frida finds it hard to forget her mother and adapt to her new life. (Source)

Most of us can trace the path we’ve taken back to a singular childhood moment. You know the one, that pivotal moment of change, when the world suddenly becomes much bigger than we’re able to handle. It’s a powerful time of awakening, and a unwitting period of growth, whether brought about by tragedy, natural change, or both. In Summer 1993, director Carla Simón draws from her own past, sculpting childhood awakening into a poignant portrait of rebellion, loneliness and grace. Delivering mature themes through the boundless and innocent eyes of a child, Simón’s film is brimming with delicate tenderness. She’s helped, of course, by the young Laia Artigas, who leaps off the screen with vitality and irresistible charm. Armed with Simón’s passionate lens and Artigas’ natural sincerity, this film seeps into our core, igniting it with a newfound sense of inspiration.

When things kick off, it’s hard to tell exactly what’s happening. There’s a lot of commotion in little Frida’s (Laia Artigas) house, with relatives all shuffling throughout as boxes are filled and stacked. It’s soon apparent that her mother’s passed, and Frida’s life is about to change forever. At the behest of her grandmother (Isabel Rocatti), Frida is moved from Barcelona to her uncle Esteve’s (David Verdaguer) small-town home, where he lives with his wife Marga (Bruna Cusí) and daughter Anna (Paula Robles). Striking a bond with Anna, Frida tries her best to fit in with the loving family, but can’t help but shake an inexplicable sadness. Unable to forget life with her mother, Frida finds herself at a crossroads.

From frame to haunting frame, the strength of Simón’s film is just how real and immersive it is. Simón keeps things loose in terms of structure, stringing together Frida’s day-to-day life through a series of fleeting vignettes. Individually, each scene draws us into a moment, some being trivial, while others hold more weight. Together, a bigger, sensory picture begins to form, rendering a summer of both hope, happiness and rebirth. To Simón’s credit, the film handles its subject matter with innocence and maturity, allowing the emotion to slip out between what isn’t said or shown. Thanks to the film’s almost dreamlike pace, Simón’s memoir soars with understated impact, bringing to life Frida’s experience in a way that feels like we’re living each revelatory instant with her.

Summer 1993 review Laia Artigas Paula Robles Isabel RocattiNeedless to say, a film like this could only be as good as its cast, and this thing is lined with a killer ensemble. Starting at the top, Artigas’ Frida couldn’t be any more charming. Artigas never feels anything less than real, and because of it, the film remains grounded in blinding honesty. We are literally helpless towards this little girl’s performance, clinging to every tiny mutiny and her longing for what can no longer be. If the ending hits as hard as it does, it’s because of Artigas’ effortless sincerity. Frida’s grandmother, Rocatti, and new family, Verdaguer, Cusí and Robles aren’t to be snubbed either though. Each one is indelible to the story in different ways.

With such an unmistakably personal slant, Summer 1993 is impossible to watch without being affected. Thanks to the heart that Simón pumps into each frame, and a charismatic cast, the film comes at us with doc-style realism. Each passing exchange or moment of inner epiphany offers the best and worst that life can throw at as. Ultimately, this is a compassionate reminder that life isn’s just about the good times. All of us will experience pain and sadness, but with the right people by our side, nothing stays miserable for too long…

SG