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TRANSILVANIA 2024

Recensione: Summer Brother

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- L'esordio nel lungometraggio dell'olandese Joren Molter ripercorre le sottili emozioni di un ragazzo che non rinuncia alla tenerezza nonostante l'ambiente poco affettuoso che è destinato a sopportare

Recensione: Summer Brother
Jarne Heylen in Summer Brother

Questo articolo è disponibile in inglese.

A young newcomer at first glance, Joren Molter actually piled up a substantial filmography of shorts, adverts and TV productions before completing his first full-length attempt, Summer Brother [+leggi anche:
intervista: Joren Molter
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, currently competing in the Transilvania International Film Festival’s Competition. While still in the film academy, he studied family environments through a triptych of shorts on domestic violence; later on, his multi-award-winning short Greetings from Kropsdam zoomed in on the harsh reality of a small village community, and his TV movie Dust happens to be a tough coming-of-age tale about two best friends. As a youth drama about two separated brothers and their dysfunctional family, written by Dust scriptwriter Brit Snell (based on Jaap Roben’s novel of the same name), Summer Brother contains elements of all of the aforementioned works by Molten, and fuses shreds of themes and contexts he seems eager to explore.

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Solitary pre-adolescent Brian (Jarne Heylen) lives with his mostly frowning and somewhat rough-looking father, Maurice (Micha Hulshof), in a caravan park, among regular beer drinkers and general rowdiness. He has a roof over his head, but not exactly a home, as Maurice is often absent while Brian’s mother seems to be gone for good. The only sign of her on screen is the wedding photo with her new husband, where she looks like she is smiling while awaiting a better future. Or at least a brighter one that would enable her to leave behind the grim reality of an ill-tempered husband together with a physically and intellectually disabled son – Brian’s brother Lucien (Joël in 't Veld), who lives in a nursing home.

Learning that his father plans to bring Lucien home for the upcoming summer to save money on healthcare gives Brian the creeps, but he is also happy to have met the corpulent, dark-skinned Selma at the hospital, another intellectually challenged, but affectionate and gentle, girl who openly offers to be his girlfriend. As he willingly accepts her motherly caress, she regularly drags him to the red-lit bathroom, so they can enjoy their “tummy time” by innocently rubbing their stomachs together. He finds a father figure in the company of his new caravan-park neighbour Emiel, whom his father suspects of having impure thoughts or is simply jealous of. Eventually, Brian learns not only to empathise, but also to communicate on a deeper level with his sibling, developing feelings of profound brotherly affection.

As a nuanced portrait of a practically orphaned kid whose parents are still alive, Summer Brother owes much of its authenticity to skilful young Belgian actor Jarne Heylen and his organic interaction with the truly disabled Joël in 't Veld. Heylen's fully fledged presence and talent to express a wide range of emotions, even with a mostly sulky or simply stony face, allow him to convey sadness, anxiety and frustration – but also tranquillity in the company of Emiel, joy throughout the short, stolen moments with Selma and affectionate love, especially in the final sequence, where a verbal expression of said emotion becomes possible for his character. Molten’s directing is rather discreet, leaving much of the film's flow to the deftly penned script and to DoP Sam du Pon’s camera, which tries to reveal inner worlds through captured gestures and movements, grimaces and different shades of light on faces.

Summer Brother was produced by the Netherlands’ Family Affair Films and Belgium’s Polar Bear.

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