A FRESH, sweet, naturalistically-performed autobiographical story of a troubled youngster trying to settle in to a new home, Summer 1993 is sure to be one of the highlights of the 20th Spanish Film Festival.
After the death of her parents, the details of which she is not entirely across yet, young Frida (Laia Artigas) is sent to live at the country home of her aunt Marga (Bruna Cusi), uncle Blai (Jordi Figueras) and cousin Anna (Paula Robles).
They are family but there is still a small divide – Frida feels like she doesn’t quite fit in.
It doesn’t help that there is something unspoken about Frida that separates her from the others; constant trips to the doctor, blood tests and a parent’s over-reaction to Frida’s bleeding knee on the playground.
Frida quickly discovers her situation leads to emotions she has not felt before.
Less about plot and more about observing human behaviour, Summer 1993 wants us to experience this situation and feel like we are part of it.
Each scene is an achievement in naturalism.
The ultimate gem is a one-shot scene of Frida, reclined on a deck chair, sunnies on and twig in her mouth in place of a cigarette, emulating a diva-like mother being waited on hand and foot by her “daughter” Anna.
In fact, some of the most precious moments are watching the two girls playing together and just being children: taking a bath together, jumping on the bed and collecting vegies from the garden.
There is something below Frida’s surface, a subtle resentment towards Anna that one would imagine any adopted or foster child would feel towards their new sibling who is blood-related to their parents.
There is a sense this may slip into melodrama with a tragic incident lurking around the corner, but writer/director Carla Simon Pipo surprises every step of the way by going against what may be expected, but still maintaining a sense of drama.
Such gentle and sensitive storytelling is rare and should be cherished – perhaps not only a highlight of the festival, but of the year.
The 20th Spanish Film Festival runs from April 27 to May 17.
THE ESSENTIALSSummer 1993 (M)
Directed by: Carla Simon Pipó
Starring: Laia Artigas, Paula Blanco, Etna Campillo
Four and a half stars
Review by: Julian Wright