After her mother’s death, six-year-old Frida is sent to her uncle’s family to live with them in the countryside. But Frida finds it hard to forget her mother and adapt to her new life.
Director: Carla Simón
Writer: Carla Simón
Stars: Laia Artigas, Paula Robles, Bruna Cusí
Subtitled in English
“Summer 1993” balances delicately on the aftermath of a tragedy, but its tone is far from dismal. Melancholy, yes, and even momentarily wrenching; yet its emotional arc bends insistently from inarticulate sadness to gentle catharsis.
Unfolding during a sun-dappled summer in the Catalonian countryside, this autobiographical debut (culled from the childhood memories and family stories of the writer and director, Carla Simón) is light on drama yet dense with unspoken feeling. At the center of every scene is 6-year-old Frida (a shockingly composed Laia Artigas), whose mother’s death from AIDS-related pneumonia has caused her to be transplanted from a Barcelona apartment to the rural home of her young uncle and his wife (David Verdaguer and Bruna Cusí).
As Frida struggles to adjust to the unfamiliar rhythms of her welcoming new family and the companionship of her younger cousin, Anna (Paula Robles), the movie evokes her emotional fragility with a series of low-key yet vivid vignettes. Frida’s scraped knee provokes alarm from a village mother, who hustles her bewildered daughter away from the blood, and mild incidents of callousness toward little Anna reveal Frida’s uncertainty about where she fits in. A scene where she dresses like a woman and lounges, pretend-smoking, on a deck chair reminds us that memories of her mother are lingeringly lucid.
Filmed in the locations where the director lived at that age, “Summer 1993” is movingly understated and beautifully acted. The colors are muted and the style is naturalistic; swimming ponds and poultry and heat-languid vegetables enable the children’s games, and the cinematographer, Santiago Racaj, crouches down to toddler height to watch. Through his lens, we see an entirely new family being born.
-Jeannette Catsoulis, NY TIMES