My First Summer ***
Starring: Markellah Kavenagh, Maiah Stewardson
Director: Katie Found
In the remote Australian countryside, Grace (Stewardson) has seen a woman drown herself in the lake. Having reported what she saw to the police, she goes to the woman’s house, only to find that she’s left behind a daughter, Claudia (Kavenagh), who is now living there alone. Claudia has lived an isolated life, having never left the farm or known anyone but her mother, but the sixteen year-old’s grief is postponed upon the arrival of this newcomer, who vows to continue visiting and maintain the secret of her existence.
A romantic coming-of-age flick, a connection swiftly forms between the two, but with Grace’s stoic parents beginning to be suspicious about where she spends all her time, this idyllic summer they spend together has clearly got a shelf-life. And unfortunately, once the story is set up, it’s pretty damn obvious where it’s going after the first ten minutes. A self-fulfilling prophecy of a film, its predictability might be comforting for some, but for others it will be an infuriating paint-by-numbers in bland storytelling.
However, both leads give suitably dreamy performances, with Stewardson’s Grace the particular stand-out. The costume designer’s decision to clad her in tutus, pink plastic beads and candy rings certainly highlights her youth, but that doesn’t necessarily sit so right when the plot turns sexual later. This heightened girlhood – which Grace dutifully teaches to Claudia – goes to underline the innocence of the pair and of their love, only to be threatened by the societal forces around them.
Like a sickly sweet candy pop, this is saccharine teenage romanticism that does exactly what it says on the wrapper. Like a My Summer Of Love but without its caustic edge, this dreamy drama is a sun-kissed treat that’s ultimately fulfilling, albeit nothing new.
UK Release: Out now on DVD and VOD, released by Peccadillo Pictures