Cécile De France stars in a sympathetic yet predictable romance from Catherine Corsini
Veteran director Catherine Corsini balances the personal with the political in her engaging autobiographical romance Summertime (La Belle Saison). She invites a warm nostalgia for 1970s France and a time, under the presidency of Georges Pompidou, when age-old attitudes were challenged and traditional values were under siege. The plot may be a little predictable and melodramatic but the underlying depiction of the struggle to be true to yourself remains as relevant now as it was 40 years ago.
In 1971, Delphine (Izïa Higelin) leaves her parents’ farm in Limousin to study in Paris. She is soon swept up in the rising tide of the feminist movement, and in the swirl of direct action and intoxicating idealism advocated by a group of militant activists. She is also irresistibly drawn to Spanish teacher Carole (Cécile De France) and a passionate romance ensues. When Delphine is obliged to return home, Carole follows her to the countryside, charming her unsuspecting mother Monique (Noémie Lvovsky). The second half of the film becomes more measured as the harsh realities of their compromised life begin to take their toll.
Summertime is quite understated in its recreation of the period, refusing to wallow in retro design and pop culture references and making effective use of some unexpected soundtrack choices, including ‘Me and Bobby McGee’. Supporting characters are drawn with sympathy, including those who seem designed to stand as obstacles in the path of true love. The film’s heart is the affair between the two women, the clash between urban and rural, the timidity of Delphine and the headstrong conviction of Carole. The radiant performances from Higelin and De France and the believable chemistry they create together keep you involved, even as the twists and tears leave you knowing exactly where this is heading.
Selected release from Fri 15 Jul.