Review: Endless Summer Syndrome
- In his debut feature, Kaveh Daneshmand masterfully and stylishly navigates a controversial and provocative plot
There is no such thing as a perfect (family) life, only an illusion of it. Once cracks appear in the facade, that illusion is broken and dangerous secrets can surface. At least, that is the case with Kaveh Daneshmand’s debut feature, the domestic thriller Endless Summer Syndrome [+see also:
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film profile], which enjoyed its world premiere in the First Feature Competition of the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.
It seems that the French family Denicourt has it all. The matriarch Delphine (Sophie Colon in a possibly breakthrough big screen role) works in high politics and gives lectures. Her husband Antoine (Mathéo Capelli, glimpsed in 13 Tzameti) is a writer with a stellar reputation. With their adoptive children, the introverted Aslan (co-writer Gem Deger) and the cheeky Adia (newcomer Frédérika Milano), they live in an idyllic countryside home where they enjoy endless summer days by the swimming pool, or at least intend to do so, since Aslan is bound to leave home and continue his studies in New York City.
However, one anonymous phone call changes everything. A woman on the other side of the line tells Delphine that Antoine admitted something to her when he was drunk, something quite inappropriate and involving one of their children. The call is clearly not part of a blackmailing scheme, though it might be someone’s twisted attempt to put pressure on the family, which would not be the first time. While Delphine trusts her husband and children, she knows that she cannot simply confront them with what she heard. So she starts “playing detective” to find out what is going on, which raises the tension and suspicions within the household. But the real question is whether she is ready for the truth she might find.
Although the setting is quite archetypal, the intervention that shakes its foundations a bit of a cliché, and the 3-act structure transparent despite all the ornamentation (such as flash-forwards to the police interviews), Endless Summer Syndrome is a film that grabs and holds the attention of the viewer for its entire duration. This could be thanks to the thorough writing work that went into creating the characters and their relationships, which establishes an environment for generally underused actors and newcomers to deliver compelling and memorable performances. For instance, Delphine being the lady of the house makes her a bit distant and strict, and the children more attached to Antoine than to her, but the love and the affection they share seems very real. Moreover, the mystery is well thought-out and timed for maximum dramatic effect and impact, although some of Daneshmand’s creative choices unveil elements of the truth too early and put too much emphasis on symbolism. This also makes the resolution of the plot a tad too neat and clean compared to the ethical “grey zone” and controversy that the film deals with.
On the level of craft, Endless Summer Syndrome is also impressive, polished work powered by smart decisions. The boxy 4:3 aspect ratio works equally well for the frequent close-ups and for the rare but powerful distant shots, while the summery, bright and saturated colour scheme of Cédric Larvoire’s cinematography stands in striking contrast with the film’s dark and controversial content. The editing by François and Pierrè’ Del Ray sometimes slips into the music video style, which is understandable considering the pulsating score by Matteo Hager and Jakub Trs.
Endless Summer Syndrome may not be perfect in absolute terms, but it is an outstanding debut that shows a lot of heart, a lot of thought and a lot of talent from the creative team, the cast and the crew.
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