Dylan Wiggan reviews Antonia San Juan’s latest film, screened at the iViva! Film Festival
Del lado del verano (The Summer Side) is a comedy set in Spain’s Canary Islands and follows the trials and tribulations of an eccentric and dysfunctional family after the death of their patriarch.
This ensemble piece covers a wide basis of typical ‘family’ issues such as feuds, love, betrayal, friendship and burgeoning sexuality. But by expertly throwing all these familiar tropes together director Antonia San Juan, for the most part, keeps the narrative from being boring. Also with neat mix of lively and nuanced performances the conventional characters are given a greater ‘pop’.
Unfortunately this ‘comedy’ is criminally short on real laughs. The actors are clearly giving it their best but the material they are working with is more often than not just not strong enough. Not helping though is the over performance of some actors that resulted in some inappropriate laughter at the screening this reviewer attended. This may just be an example of some filmic aspects being ‘lost in translation’ but it definitely has a negative effect on the film.
Despite clichéd set ups most of the stories are resolved (or perhaps more aptly left unresolved) in surprising ways. Without delving too deep into ‘spoiler’ territory familiar tales of: teen pregnancy, infidelity and drug use will not lead you down the same path films have taken you before- and will leave you where you never expected.
The problem though with this surprising character development is that this treatment is not afforded to everyone. Some people’s stories are finished unsatisfactorily or left unresolved as if forgotten about. This all culminates in an emotional third act that is does not feel genuine or earned from the plot.
Overall this is a comedy that lacks the big laughs and whilst the narratives arcs and performances will keep you from being bored it is an experience that will ultimately leave you unsatisfied.