Last Summer: Four days to say goodbye
by Camillo de Marco
- Leonardo Guerra Seràgnoli directs an original and bold production on the Italian coast that attracted the attention of producers Elda Ferri and Luigi Musini
Since the publication of her hugely popular first novel, Kitchen, Banana Yoshimoto’s books have met with a level of enthusiasm that the press have come to playfully describe as “Bananamania”. The 50-year-old Japanese writer has now sold over six million copies of her books, which have lost none of their humanity in describing the power of love and friendship as well as the profound effect of loss.
Now based in London, Italian director Leonardo Guerra Seràgnoli collaborated with Yoshimoto for the screenplay of Last Summer [+see also:
film profile], which explores the very themes of loss that will already be familiar to Yoshimoto’s readers. In this poignant and delicate story, just like in a tale by the author herself, a young Japanese woman (played by Rinko Kikuchi, who was Oscar-nominated for Babel) is given only four days to say goodbye to her six-year-old son (Ken Brady), after losing custody of him in a divorce.
The encounter takes places on board a luxury yacht (the Wally Esense, designed by popular architect Odile Decq) belonging to the wealthy British family of the ex-husband. At sea, set against the Otranto coast in Puglia, and under the watchful gaze of the ship’s captain (Dutch actor Yorick Van Wageningen, from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and crew, Naomi, the young mother, desperately tries to forge a bond with her son, Ken. Although at first Ken is distant and reluctant, Naomi refuses to give up, reaching out to her son by using their shared mother tongue, Japanese, to tell him stories from his childhood and ancient Japanese legends, as well as cooking him traditional Japanese food. Slowly, the strength of cultural identity and maternal attraction win over the child and, at the end of their final day, they part ways with an implicit promise.
Thanks to direction that is as polished and jumpy as the lead character herself, and thanks also to the involvement of illustrator Igort in the writing of the screenplay, Last Summer is a film that is as vivid and expressive as a graphic novel. The movie is further enriched by the costume design by Oscar winner Milena Canonero (who is also involved as a producer) as well as a brilliant international cast and adept editing by Austria’s Monika Willi, a favourite of Michael Haneke’s.
A unique production in the Italian film landscape, Last Summer benefited from the support of Elda Ferri and Luigi Musini (with Jean Vigo Italia and Cinemaundici, respectively), in collaboration with Rai Cinema. After its screening at the Rome Film Festival, theatrical distribution of the film will be handled by Bolero in Italy from 23 October. International distribution is being handled by Fortissimo Films.
(Translated from Italian)