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The last season of childhood: ”Summer Is Over” – film review

    It may very well be named “The last childhood summer”. It is a season that everybody lived through, it is a season of the future nostalgic mementos, as long as the separation from it is made in a natural way.. for the hero of the feature film  Summer Is Over / Vara s-a sfârșit, that separation proved to be brutal and dramatic; a first catch of this third feature film made by Radu Potcoavă can be considered this very refusal of lingering in the nostalgic regime. Actually, the film is made of contradictory levels – maybe, sometimes, they are exposed too much – meant to translate the action towards a problematic area. To a place where there is no room left for “Where are you, childhood / with your forest”. Mircea (Nicholas Bohor) is what people usually call a shy, clever boy, passionate about astrophysics; he often talks to Mrs.Ilie (Valentin Popescu) about a possible solar explosion that will happen in five million years or about the solar eclipse that will soon happen. Undoubtedly, he is also a good, docile kid, who is respectful with his parents: he comes to dinner without waiting his mother (Ofelia Popii)`s second invitation, unlike his father (Șerban Pavlu), who is more interested in finishing his cigarette. These are a few details that seem to just be there, but they will be very important later on. When “the boy from Bucharest” (from the Colentina neighborhood) enters the small universe of our hero who lives in a little town near the Danube River, they will begin a sort of a friendship and Mircea`s way of behaving himself will be even more obvious. Alex (Dan Hurduc) is his opposite, in every way. He is “the cool guy” – he has long hair and wears a funky cap, he loves listening to the BUG Mafia and Paraziții bands that were very trendy in the `90s – they seem so touching now – he uses “dude” all the time and can`t stop wondering how anyone can live with no KFC or Spring. On top of everything, he has a super cool bike. He is fully geared to seduce the nice boy from the province and to make his mother (a caring mother hen, whose goodwill is limited – “What do I care about other children?”)  worry for her son. Even is the above mentioned contrasts are sometimes too strong (Mircea carries a heavy album on eclipses that he received from Mr.Ilie, while Alex carries his flying bike), the couple has everything it takes to win us over with the combination of pure ingenuity and innocent tricks. Their wandering about the town, started with the episode when they went swimming in the Danube River, together with a girl, will become increasingly daring. Mircea starts having initiatives, like adventuring to some ruined buildings that bring remind us of the mysterious landscapes that Cărtărescu wrote about in Solenoid. He gets to feel the taste of freedom and that is why he finally accepts to be part of a game that his new friend tells him about: to fake kidnapping Alex by taking his photo and sending it to Alex`s father. The basement of the former mill building which is in ruin seems to be the perfect place for their plan. Mircea proves to be not only a precocious astrophysicist, but also a regular kid; he kept in mind everything he saw in the films he watched: he knows how the photo of a kidnapped person should look like, he came prepared to the site, he improvises a few blood stains, he doesn’t forget to gag Alex, just like a professional would do, as he says. A fatal gesture will block up Alex in the basement. From that moment on, we hit the second contrasting level of the narration: the good boy facing the drama that he was a part of. I suppose Radu Potcoavă and the screenwriter Cristina Bîlea worked a lot with the psychological questions. How soon will the boy take the blame of the action, the running away and the hiding of the misfortune? We get to understand that he was brought up pretty stuck to the skirt of his mother who is excessively caring, whose main concern seems to be feeding him (“if you don`t like that, I`ll fix you something else”) and under the eyes of a father who is obsessed with mere trifles (“you left the door of the fridge opened, again”); we also understand the shyness of his communicating with the others, but still, the proportions of the drama were far too big to be able to stand the postponing of the confession. The scene with Mircea visiting Alex`s grandmother in order to ask her if her “grandson is at home” seems quite strange. Mircea is a very clever boy, with a logical mind, we would have rather expected him to run to Mr.Ilie to confess and get that off his chest. And when he finally does it, when he tells his father the truth, he whines like a little boy: “I did something bad”. If the child`s not daring to confess may seem disappointing, his parents` reaction and especially that of his father, is not susceptible of any ambiguity. From the very beginning, when his wife asks him to come and have dinner, the man looks like coming from very far away. When we think that he finally wants to speak seriously to his son, judging by the serious tone of his voice, the conversation is still about that damn door. His indifference and cowardice don`t take us by surprise. What we can call “the father`s pose” seems to be very important for Radu Potcoavă. He attracted attention from his short film Daddy Ruls / Tatăl meu e cel mai tare due to the subtlety of the father-son relationships, then he multiplied the angles of interpretation of the father figure in In-laws / Cuscrii and now, even if he is placed a bit in the background, the father feeds the problematic core of the entire film, which gets us thinking. And that is quite something.

 Traslation: Iulia Necoara

Tags: filme romanesti, iconproduction, radu potcoava, summer is over film review, vara s-a sfarsit cronica de film, vara s-a sfarsit film