Summer 1993 review – stunning drama of a childhood ripped apart

Carla Simón’s brilliantly realised story of a six-year-old traumatised by the death of her parents features miraculous child performances This autobiographical debut from 32-year-old Spanish film-maker Carla Simón is a jewel. In its subtlety, richness and warmth it is entirely beguiling – complex and simple at the same time. It is also very moving. Summer 1993 is about childhood and a child’s fraught relationship to the adult world, and has some of the most miraculous child performances I can remember seeing recently, although the concept of “performances” and “acting” are meaningless with children this young: two little girls of six and three years old. There is something awe-inspiring in realising that, to all intents and purposes, what we are seeing is real. The moment-by-moment interplay of emotions and dramatic gestures between these children is effectively innocent of grownup play-acting and pretend. It is a classic premise for a film about a remembered childhood – although the act of remembering is only implicit, contained in the title. This happened more than 20 years ago. Frida, played by Laia Artigas, is a lonely six-year-old who has been sent away from her home in Barcelona to live with her aunt and uncle and their infant daughter in the countryside: a long, drowsy, lazy summer is in prospect before Frida must enrol at the local school for a new term. But there is nothing idyllic about it. Frida is going away because her mum has just died, and it appears her father had also died, a few years previously. Frida is in shock, or she is simply too young to process what is happening. A mean kid in the first scene jeers at her: “Why aren’t you crying?” Continue reading...

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