Days of the Bagnold Summer
8th June 2020 (UK VOD Premiere)
A teenager spends his summer listening to heavy metal music and trying to get along with his librarian mother.
Tamsin Greig, Earl Cave, Rob Brydon, Alice Lowe, Monica Dolan
The biggest success of Days of the Bagnold Summer is it’s realistic and often humorous depiction of the estranged relationship between a glum 15-year-old metal enthusiast and his sweet and reserved librarian mother. It’s something that could easily fall into caricature, like the titular twosome in the hilarious Kevin & Perry Go Large. But Bagnold Summer aims for something more truthful and thankfully succeeds, largely due to the thoughtful performances from Earl Cave and Monica Dolan, but also because of the enthusiastic direction from The Inbetweeners & Friday Night Dinner star Simon Bird.
As hinted at above the plot is kept deliberately gentle. The majority of the film has little in the way of urgency and is reflected as such in it’s pacing. That is not a criticism, however, as it suits the light and relaxed mood of the story. Daniel (Earl Cave: True History of the Kelly Gang) spends the majority of his time at home playing videogames and listening to Metallica whilst his single mother Sue (Monica Dolan: Pride, Sightseers) works at a library. Summer begins with Daniel looking forward to spending time with his dad in Florida, but when the trip is unexpectedly canceled Daniel has to face the prospect of 6 long weeks at home with his mother. Something that will stretch their relationship to its very limits.
Thanks to an amusing script from Lisa Owens (Based on the graphic novel by Joff Winterhart) that’s choc-full of comic observations, Days of the Bagnold Summer becomes a very easy and enjoyable watch. The bitter struggle of Sue trying to persuade her son to try on something other than black trainers for a wedding, or Daniels shy search to become a member of a band are scenes that flow and feel natural, whilst also emitting laughs and smiles. Cave and Dolan bounce so well off each other you really buy into their relationship, Dolan especially does brilliant work making Sue so empathetic to the viewer.
The supporting cast all manage to make an impact with their limited screentime also. Rob Brydon (Gavin & Stacey, The Trip) plays Daniels teacher who attempts to woo his mother, Alice Lowe (Solis, Prevenge) is Sue’s gossip-hungry but supportive sister, and Elliot Speller-Gillott (Uncle) is Daniels vain and pompous friend Ky. All are very watchable and keep the film feeling fresh without detracting from the film’s essential relationship.
It’s a pleasant surprise to see first time director Simon Bird keeping things simple, but always trying (and succeeding) in choosing the most interesting shots possible without being too flashy. It doesn’t draw attention to itself but I definitely noticed the care and thought put into many compositions. Especially the constant distance between Daniel and Sue as they’re shot together on opposite sides of the frame or through mirrors. He also knows the comic value of having a milk float delivery accompanied with blasting death metal.
Whilst Days of the Bagnold Summer doesn’t have a particularly pressing conflict, I was disappointed in the flat way it resolves Daniel and Sue’s differences. It feels a tad too simple, rushed and unearned, leaving the film on a bit of a bum note. A great shame for two characters I completely bought in to. That being said, it didn’t ruin the film for me and I’d still highly recommend seeking it out. Let’s face it, our own summer may have been canceled, so you might as well make it a Bagnold one.
Days of the Bagnold Summer is available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Sky Store, Virgin, BT, Curzon Home Cinema and BFI Player from 8th June 2020.
Charming and believable dynamic between mother and son
Thoughtful direction and shot composition
Monica Dolan shines
Somewhat flat resolution