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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Director Carla Simón makes her feature film debut with Summer 1993, exploring the ideas of death, stigma, and control in this autobiographical tale based on her own childhood.
Frida (Laia Artigas) is a six year old girl who has grown up in the bustle of Barcelona in the late 80s and early 90s. After the death of her parents, she is sent to live in the Catalan countryside with her aunt Marga (Bruna Cusi), uncle Esteve (David Verdaguer), and four year old cousin Anna (Paula Robles). The film is told from Frida’s perspective, with the naivety and supposed ignorance of a six year old while other points of tension play out around her.
The film was shot on location in the Catalan countryside, and the landscapes are exactly what would be expected. The sun-filled and picturesque backdrops again give the film a feeling of a summer getaway story, juxtaposed against the plot which is largely driven by loss and change. The acting, too, tends to reflect this comparison. The often playful and sibling-like interaction between Frida and Anna is interjected with moments where the audience is left wondering if there is much more playing out beneath the surface. There are certainly broader themes at play, such as being the child of AIDS sufferers and being a new comer to a relatively small community. There is drama, too, amongst the remainder of Frida’s aunts, uncle and grandparents, as the usual blame game and well-meaning but misinformed recommendations play out in the aftermath of a family death. But these are largely pushed to the side, in the way in which a six year old child may quietly acknowledge such goings-on and then choose to ignore them. Instead, the film focuses on Frida and the way in which her grief manifests itself. At times the film tends to be a back and forth of Frida acting out and being forgiven, and here lies the crux of the film’s many themes. Is there a limit to what is acceptable in a child who has lost so much? Is Frida’s grief response acceptable? Are all grief responses individualised and therefore by definition acceptable?