Days of the Bagnold Summer (2019) – 8/10

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Director: Simon Bird

Writer: Lisa Owens

Starring: Monica Dolan, Earl Cave, Tamsin Greig

Genre: Drama / Comedy

After his dad changes his mind at the last minute to not allow black-clad metal fan teenager Daniel (Cave) to join him in Florida for the summer holiday, Daniel is forced to spend the summer holiday with long-suffering and well-intentioned mum (Dolan).

Even if we try and deny it, I think we can all accept that as a teenager we all demonstrated certain character traits that we are now certainly less than proud of – apparently it is partly down to genetics and hormones, so we do have a slight excuse, even if our poor suffering parents may not be willing to accept that excuse! Well, this delightful British comedy directed by The Inbetweeners Simon Bird does capture perfectly the memories that I am sure most of us (especially the men) will have of our occasional intolerable behaviour towards our long-suffering and inexplicably tolerant parents, and in the case of Days of the Bagnold Summer a single parent – something which of course is becoming an increasing thing in modern day society.

Lisa Owen’s script wonderfully captures with very accurate and understated observation, melancholy and humour the kind of dialogue that is shared between a stroppy teenager (with no true understanding of just exactly what he is actually saying and its actual ramifications) and his long-suffering single mum when they end up spending the summer holiday together. This makes for an often genuinely funny and moving film, which effectively relies on the subtleties and observations within both the script and the note-perfect performances.

The narrative is admittedly very episodic (which may be partly down to it being based on a graphic novel), but it does predominantly avoid the pitfall clichés of so many films of a similar genre and keeps a consistent tone in that though the overall narrative may follow an obvious trajectory, how it does this is not overly forced or unbelievable.

As well as the superb script, the main strength is the two leading performances. Earl Cave is superb as Daniel; because of what he sometimes says to his mum he can be very difficult to like, but crucially he is compelling and very believable (and undoubtedly for many of us actually quite relatable – even if we are rather ashamed to admit it) and we cannot help but care about the relationship between the two characters. Daniel’s story is far from simple as his Dad has moved to America and at the last minute changed his mind about letting Daniel join him for the summer holidays, which suggests this being one of many times that Daniel has been let down by his dad, so allowing us to have some understanding of his predominately cynical mindset.

However, the star of the film is undoubtedly Monica Dolan; she gives a wonderfully understated performance that depicts perfectly someone trying to remain stoic and keep a brave ‘coping’ face while battling obvious extreme internal pain and anxiety (something so many single parents have to do on a daily basis).

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Days of the Bagnold Summer is also a wonderfully cinematic film, despite this being his first feature as director, The Inbetweeners Simon Bird shows a very mature directing eye by keeping things very simple with a predominantly static camera that allows the actors to do most of the work, and as this is a very much dialogue-heavy, character-driven (almost play-like) film that is undoubtedly the right approach as it fits with the understated style of the dialogue. Simon Tindall’s wonderfully summery and colourful cinematography also brings the film and the various scenes to life, which only serves to produce what is overall an often hilarious and very emotionally engaging and satisfying film.

From start to finish Days of the Bagnold Summer is a wonderfully bittersweet, understated film filled with laughs and genuine emotion that will resonate with all viewers.


At time of writing Days of the Bagnold Summer is available to stream on various platforms

About MoodyB

An extremely passionate and (semi) opened minded film reviewer, with a hint of snobbish.
This entry was posted in All Film Reviews, British Films, The Best of 2020 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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