A Summer Day of Loss and Redemption By France Hatron

in 12nd Geneva Festival Tous Ecrans

by France Hatron

A Summer Day (Un jour d’été, France, 2005) is the first feature film by Franck Guérin, presented during the international competition of the 12th “Festival International Cinéma Tout Ecran” in Geneva.

In a small French village, the members of a teenager football team regularly meet up with each other to play matches. During a football game, young Mickaël suspends himself in the goal cage that collapses. He is killed instantly. The victim’s family is desperately looking for a person to be responsible for the accident. Accusations are pointed at the village mayor: he is in charge of the installations and had promised to have them renovated. Mickaël’s best friend, Sebastien, is completely destroyed by the tragedy. To survive, he finds a new way of life by getting closer and closer to Mickaël’s mother, sister and last girlfriend. This unfair death sparks off a climate of tension in the village and in the neighbourhood. The protagonists seem haunted by Mickaël’s beauty and are continually reminded of this violent and unfair lost.

We believe in this story even if the script is sometimes confused and rather lightweight. But most of the time, the atmosphere, the shooting process and the acting are all the film needs to catch our attention. The way the victims show their sadness and anxiety, and live with them, is fully convincing. There are no clichés in the funeral scene: the camera focuses on Sebastien waiting for the coffin just before the ceremony. No tears, no fear. He feels empty of feelings but nonetheless this is a touching and original scene. Franck Guérin doesn’t show the emptiness of life and the silence is an absurdity but he has a way to make us understand better the disaster. Likewise in another touching scene in which Mickaël’s mother tells Sebastien, “A child shouldn’t be survived by his parents. When a child loses his parents, we say he’s orphaned. And what to say about a woman whose child is dead?”

His search of the artificial, the coldness of his protagonists and a certain harshness reminds us of Eric Rohmer’s tales, the elegant and aesthetic first pictures; full of sensuality — when good-looking teenagers are playing their match — raises high expectations. We are sorry the director isn’t constant in his aesthetic choices, neither is he in his dialogues, at times he is too crude somewhat.

Too much tension in the middle of the film tends to exacerbate a deep existential crisis among the victims. The main characters seek refuge within themselves and their instincts. The pressure becomes unbearable: speed races, murder attempts, car accidents, sexual obsessions and desire. As Sebastien cannot express his profound misery, he establishes new links with his body, wants to have sex but doesn’t really know how to behave. Once, finding Mickaël’s mother very attractive, he caresses her neck. She stops him going further but doesn’t have any grudge against him. She seems to realise that they are now in a kind of incestuous relationship. She’s the mother he doesn’t have, the only memory of his best friend, the girlfriend he would like to have and at the same time an example to him, because of her higher social background. At the end of the film, he also finds Mickaël’s sister very attractive. On the day of her wedding, his seducing attitude with the bride, is nearly provocative in front of the guests and Mickaël’s mother. He’s completely out of his mind and lets us see he’s lost not just his innocence and his naivety, but also displays a heedless attitude.

A Summer Day is a just social portrait that reveals the difficult ways to survive suffering a bereavement.