Sue (Monica Dolan) is preparing to wave goodbye to her son Daniel (Earl Cave) as he jets off to America to spend the summer with his father. A last-minute phone call from Daniel’s dad cancels those plans, leaving the sulky teenager with his mother for the duration of the summer. The uneasy relationship between the two is put to the test as they try to battle through the unexpected time together and navigate their own pent up issues.
Days of the Bagnold Summer is based on the graphic novel by Joff Winterhart and it’s the directorial debut of The Inbetweeners star Simon Bird. Due to Bird’s involvement, it’s likely that people will come to this film expecting an Inbetweeners type film but that’s most certainly not what they’ll get. Instead Days of the Bagnold Summer is a sensitive and pensive look at the troubled relationship between a mother and the son she can’t seem to understand or relate to.
On the plus side the relationship is captured realistically. Any single parent that has found themselves spending an interrupted summer with a moody teenager will be able to relate and that relationship is what the entire film hangs on. Sue is trying to step out of her comfort zone, flirting (literally) with the idea of dating one of Daniel’s teachers while Daniel channels his anger into falling out with his best friend, becoming the lead singer of a rock band and putting his mum down at every opportunity.
On the down side, that’s pretty much all that there is to this film. The laugh-out-loud moments you expect never area and there’s not a single moment of real drama across the 86 minutes. It feels more like we’re getting a glimpse into the dynamic between Sue and Daniel than watching a compelling story unravel. The lack of laughs and dramatic tension left me wondering exactly what point Bird was trying to get across. The film adds nothing to the oft-explored family relationship dynamic that is at the heart of many a film.
Monica Dolan is practically unrecognisable as Sue and her performance here is very good. She plays Sue sympathetically as a mother who is trying to make her son happy but never seems to manage to get it right. Earl Cave on the other hand is a little too one note. There’s no depth or layers to Daniel past the grimacing and sulking so he doesn’t really give Dolan much to work with. The rest features familiar faces such as Tamsin Greig and Rob Brydon, who are no doubt doing Bird a favour by appearing.
Days of the Bagnold Summer doesn’t really have very much to say and that’s my overall issue with it. The performances, for the most part, are fine but the story doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s light on laughs, devoid of drama and offers nothing new as it explores a mother-son dynamic. With Bird behind the camera I’d had high hopes and while this is a well-made film, it’s not one I’m going to remember as the weeks pass by.
Cast: Monica Dolan, Earl Cave, Tamsin Greig, Rob Brydon, Alice Lowe Director: Simon Bird Writer: Lisa Owens (screenplay), Joff Winterhart (graphic novel) Certificate: 15 Duration: 86 mins Released by: Altitude Film Release date: 8th June 2020