Having become a household name from his roles on ‘The Inbetweeners’ and ‘Friday Night Dinner’, you might expect Simon Bird’s first foray into feature filmmaking to reflect his onscreen persona, but those coming to this expecting a sarcastic and foul-mouthed comedy will discover something altogether different. Based on the graphic novel by Joff Winterhart, and adapted by Lisa Owens, ‘Days of the Bagnold Summer’ is a subdued and sweet-natured coming-of-age comedy about a single mum and her moody son.
‘Days of the Bagnold Summer’ immediately feels unique thanks to its utterly unremarkable setting, focused on British cinemas most wildly underrepresented demographic – the lower middle-class suburbs. We’re so used to seeing the extremes of British society on screen, whether that be the aristocracy of ‘Downton Abbey’ the toffs of the Richard Curtis cinematic universe, or the poverty-stricken working classes. However, most of Britain is just boring suburban existence, and it is quite nice to see that for once on the big screen.
Earl Cave is Daniel Bagnold, an awkward, introverted, metal-head teenager, who lives with his mum Sue (Monica Dolan). Daniel is planning to spend the summer in Florida with his dad and step-mum, but when plans change at the last minute, Daniel and Sue are forced to navigate the six weeks of summer together. Bird perfectly captures how the summer holiday—so full of excitement and potential when you’re a kid—becomes an endless boring nightmare once you’re a teenager, and what an absolute miserable time this is for parents.
As the days drift by, tensions between the two begin to rise as Sue keeps trying to spend time with Daniel, whilst he makes it abundantly clear—in that classic moody teenager way—that he would literally rather be anywhere else in the world. Though specifically, and hurtfully to Sue, in Florida with his dad. The mood between the two is further complicated when Sue begins dating Daniel’s history teacher (Rob Brydon).
Bird plays all of this in a very low key and downbeat way, and daringly maintains this throughout. But make no mistake, it is very funny, and I suspect many will find it painfully relatable. The relationship between Daniel and Sue is so sharply observed, and the performances of Cave and Dolan so natural and lived in, you would be hard pressed not to find some familiarity in this beautifully sensitive portrayal.
‘Days of the Bagnold Summer’ is a remarkably assured debut from Bird, and has been treated to a superb blu-ray release from Anti-Worlds. The disc comes with a 30-minute making-of featurette, including interviews with all the main cast and crew, and exploring all aspects of the production. There are a couple of deleted scenes, and also the original trailer.
Also on the disc is a video essay by Simon Bird, exploring his influences and inspirations, which is accompanied by a very funny commentary track. He name checks the films of Roy Andersson, Woody Allen, Peter Bogdanovich, Wes Anderson, Hal Ashby, and Paul Thomas Anderson as being key inspirations. There’s also the screen test between Earl Cave and Monica Dolan. Elsewhere there are three short films by Joff Winterhart, plus a really fun and engaging conversation with him as he talks through the development of the graphic novel.
Finally, the limited edition comes with a 28-page booklet containing new writing on the film by director Simon Bird, screen writer Lisa Owens, film critic Leigh Singer, and unseen stills, film credits and technical details.
Cast: Earl Cave, Monica Dolan, Rob Brydon, Tamsin Greig, Alice Lowe Director: Simon Bird Writer: Lisa Owens Released By: Anti-Worlds Certificate: 12 Duration: 86 mins Release Date: 25th April 2022