Adapted from the graphic novel of the same name by Joff Winterhart, Days of the Bagnold Summer has somewhat flown under the radar since first screening at the BFI London Film Festival back in October.
The coming of age story focuses on the rocky relationship between 15-year-old heavy metal enthusiast Daniel (Earl Cave – that’s Nick Cave’s son!) and his single librarian mum, Sue (Monica Dolan). Daniel’s father’s absence has left a gap in their household as he galivants around Florida in a new convertible with a new girlfriend and baby daughter.
The premise is set up quickly: Daniel is set to spend the summer in Florida with his dad to visit his baby half-sister, but the trip is cancelled, leaving Daniel feeling disillusioned, disappointed and ultimately depressed at the prospect of spending the summer with his mum in the sleepy town of Bromley.
The plot and the story is simple, but is bolstered by a top-draw script written by Simon Bird’s wife Lisa Owens, two sensational central performances from Cave and Dolan, and hilarious supporting roles from Rob Brydon as a sleazy mid-50s teacher trying it on with Sue; Tamsin Greig as a smug hippy masseuse; and Alice Lowe as Sue’s more fun and life-affirming younger sister.
Half-assed attempts at finding a summer job from Daniel mixed with Sue’s attempts at dating lead to the pair contemplating both their circumstances and relationship with one another. At times things get heated, and at other times they realise just how important they are to each other.
The look and feel of the film is not too dissimilar to that of a Wes Anderson movie. It is packed with pastel colour palettes, still symmetrical shots, smooth pans and camera movements, and, above all, a sense of humour which deals with very serious emotions. Bird often uses the lines and structure of the family home – such as door frames, windows and stair cases – to signify the separation between the two individuals inhabiting it.
And, in accordance with the Wes Anderson aesthetic comes excellent editing. Perfectly timed comedic moments are intercut with screaming heavy metal overlaying shots of a picturesque, white picket fence suburbia. To top it all off, there’s a lovely, wistful soundtrack scored by Belle & Sebastian, which perfectly accompanies the film’s more poignant moments.
There’s this beautiful analogy which runs throughout the film which captures its essence. At first, every time Daniel is having a piece of cake, his mum always asks for a little bit of it – but just a corner, with no icing. By the end of the film as they sit together at a wedding, she takes a proper bite – with plenty of icing.