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FILMS Netherlands / Belgium

Uncompromising realism in It’s Already Summer

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Uncompromising realism in It’s Already Summer

It’s Already Summer [+see also:
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was like a cold shower for Brussels Film Festival goers bathed in the blazing summer sun. Totally immersing himself in his subject, young Dutch director Martijn Smijts plants his camera in the middle of Seraing, that unlikely film setting previously explored by the Dardenne brothers.

Having started out in documentaries, Smijts makes few concessions to fiction, and he focuses his camera on a family that is falling apart. Jean, the father, and his son Benjamin are crippled by loneliness. The mother has left the family home. The daughter Marie indulges in alcohol, sex and nighttime escapades, in order to forget she’s not yet 20 but already has a child whose father is in prison.

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Jean hides his unemployment like a shameful disease. He roams the roads in his van, in search of some warmth, human if possible. Benjamin skips school, and when his teacher expresses concern about his non-attendance, he doesn’t know how to handle this sign of attention, even affection, other than through violence.

It’s Already Summer takes a cinematic microscope to the inevitable, in a documentary-like reinterpretation of the social and hereditary determinism dear to Emile Zola. The posed portraits of Seraing families in the closing credits drive home the realism even more. There’s no hope here, despite the reunion at the end, and this is perhaps what differentiates the film most from the Dardennes’ work.

It’s Already Summer will exasperate some viewers, who may feel captive to its bleakness; others will be haunted by its chilling darkness, and the impressively authentic performance by Patrick Descamps (a rare professional actor in the film, cast alongside larger-than-life non-professionals). Moreover, the film has been chosen by the European Commission to receive the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion Award.

Produced by De Productie and Tarantula Belgium, the film is part of the “De Verbeelding” programme, a joint project between the Netherlands Film Fund and the Mondrian Foundation.

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(Translated from French)

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