By Daniele Foti-Cuzzola
Catalan director Carla Simon tugs at the heartstrings in her impressive debut feature Summer 1993 (Estiu 1993).
Loosely based on Simon’s own life, the moving coming of age drama offers an intimate and candid portrayal of grief through the eyes of a child as she comes to terms with the death of her mother.
Boasting stellar performances from the film’s two young leads, stunning cinematography, and a moving story; Summer 1993 is a must see at this year’s Spanish Film Festival.
When six-year-old Frida’s (Laila Artigas) mother dies, she is forced to leave her beloved home in Barcelona behind for the countryside, where she is to live with her late mother’s brother and his family.
While her Uncle, Aunty (Bruni Cusi) and adorable little cousin Anna (Paula Robles), attempt to make her feel right at home, Frida can’t help but feel like she doesn’t belong.
Living in an unfamiliar environment is frustrating for her and she constantly disobeys her Aunty and mistreats her cousin.
At a crossroads without her mother, Frida doesn’t know how to cope and finds comfort in occasional visits from her grandparents and a statue of the Virgin Mary. But as tensions escalate between Frida and her relatives, she begins to wonder whether she will ever belong.
Six-year-old Laila Artigas and three-year-old Paula Robles are both incredible in their respective roles as Frida and Anna.
They both bring a doe-eyed innocence to their roles as they try to come to terms with the grief and sorrow that has stricken their family and attempt to comprehend what death is.
The two are so incredibly natural with their delivery and body language, as they interact with one another that it is so easy to forget that the two are even acting.
It feels as though you are watching a home video.
Their interactions together are hands down the best in the film, with one crowd standout scene being when Frida mimics her flamboyant mother as she lounges on a pool chair and bosses her loyal cousin around to fetch her food.
The scene is both hilarious and heartbreaking as it also speaks volumes about Frida’s dysfunctional relationship with her mother.
The supporting cast also delivers fantastic performances including Bruna Cusi as Frida’s conflicted Aunt Marga.
Cusi perfectly portrays a juxtaposition of genuine concern for her niece and outrage at her behaviour as she struggles to help Frida navigate through her grief.
Director Carla Simon delivers a truly realistic portrayal of grief throughout the film. Nothing about the film is emotionally manipulative or melodramatic.
The emotions, the acting and the tone are all so natural and this most likely stems from the fact that the subject matter is based on Simon’s own life as a young girl who lost her mother.
Simon demonstrates the importance of faith during such difficult times as Frida sneaks out at night to visit the Virgin Mary, who she leaves gifts for to bring to her mother.
Summer 1993 is a beautifully crafted film that will stay with you long after the end credits roll.
For your chance to win a double in-season pass to the Spanish Film Festival, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what you love most about Spain. The Spanish Film Festival is showing at Cinema Paradiso from April 27 – May 16.