In summer sunshine in the countryside north of Paris it’s the 75th birthday of widowed matriarch Helene (Edith Scob), and attending the celebrations are her three children, university economist Frédéric (Charles Berling), designer Adrienne (Juliette Binoche) and China-based businessman Jérémie (Jérémie Renier), together with the grandchildren and the elderly housekeeper. Helene is worried about what will happen to both the house and the collection of valuable artworks belonging to her late uncle. And when she passes away a couple of months later it’s up to her offspring to decide collectively what to do with their artistic inheritance.
Assayas isn’t tied down to a conventional three-act structure in his storytelling. Dividing Summer Hours into chapters separated by fades to black, he drops in on significant moments in his characters’ lives. The film’s themes – the impact of globalisation upon our sense of personal and national identity, how different generations deal with their past, the value we attach to art – appear to emerge naturally from the drama. Shot with an appropriately light, fluid touch by Eric Gautier, and convincingly acted by the ensemble cast, Summer Hours reminds one of Jean Renoir’s dictum that ‘everyone has their reasons’ and is a fine companion piece to Assayas’ earlier Late August, Early September.
Selected release from Fri 18 Jul.