An absolute gem of a film is Days of the Bagnold Summer, the first directorial debut of The InBetweeners’ Simon Bird. This well-crafted mix of British wit and heart sees exceptional performances from the main cast of Monica Dolan and Earl Cave, and supporting cast of Bob Brydon and Tamsin Grieg. If you didn’t catch it at last year’s British Film Festival, don’t miss out again.
Divorced Sue Bagnold (Dolan) and black-clad teenage son Daniel (Cave) have each been reeling since her husband / Daniel’s father moved to Florida with a younger woman and started a new family. For this upcoming six week break, Daniel counts the minutes until he can cross the pond to be with Dad, and escape his dowdy, nagging mother.
It’s not clear how long since husband left, but Sue is still lost between the past and present. Her sister, Carol (played by Alice Low) is the voice of reality and attempts to steer Sue out of her shell back into life.
On the eve of Daniel’s departure, Dad cancels the holiday plans. Daniel withdraws into his heavy metal music and his disappointment and hurt project more anger onto Sue. When she returns from work each day, Daniel has not moved off of the sofa or cared to help out around the house in any way. Sue’s even temperament can’t withstand this behaviour for long, but she continues to urge Daniel into action, like getting a summer job. Several failed attempts ensue; the last of which draws his attention to an ad for a lead vocalist for heavy-metal band – his dream job.
At the same time, Carol’s coaxing of Sue to get back out there has seen her accept a random dinner invitation. Working at the school library, Sue has met Douglas (one of Daniel’s teachers) and they’ve bonded over British history texts. During and after dinner, Douglas makes his intentions very clear in the cab ride home, witnessed with horror by Daniel. But Sue properly sends him on his way home.
With Daniel still not showing any initiative to do anything, Sue suggests a trip to the seaside. Daniel accepts begrudgingly and from the start it looks to be a bad idea. However, it’ll spark a new beginning; only to be later amped up by a sad development with a loved one.
The emotion and tension in the film is both real and palpable, and it is the quietly humorous moments that stay with you long after.
Days of the Bagnold Summer is showing now at Palace James Street. Check your local guides for screening times.
About Days of the Bagnold Summer
Duration: 86 minutes
Directed by: Simon Bird
Written by: Lisa Owens, based on the graphic novel of the same name by Joff Winterhart
Cast: Monica Dolan, Earl Cave, Bob Brydon, Tamsin Grieg, Alice Lowe