Dutch film “Summer” brings us a lesbian coming-of-age story

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It’s been a while since I’ve seen a coming-of-age story like Summer, one where coming out is the least shocking of events and a new lesbian relationship is one of the few moments of happiness we get. But that’s what director Colette Bothof brings us in this charming, if disturbing at times, Dutch film.

Our protagonist is Anne or “Ms. Silent,” as she’s better known. While she can speak, she often chooses not to. Maybe because she has nothing to say, since everyday life in her village is the same-old same-old: you praise the power station for the jobs it provides (but don’t mention its potentially damaging effects), you pray to Mary and you bike in packs. Always.

More importantly, you don’t question much. But in a village full of teenagers, the stirrings are there.

For Anne, it begins in art class, when her friend Ruby poses nude. Clearly flustered, she doesn’t really know what to make of her feelings. It all becomes too overwhelming when her brother’s friend kisses her on the beach (where it seems everyone has handed control over to summer lust). It’s too much, and so very obviously not what she wants. Anne throws herself in the water briefly to keep herself from drowning.

But she can’t ignore those stirrings Ruby started when a mysterious girl rolls into the gas station Anne works at. Lena is unlike anyone this small village has ever seen–mixed-raced, an activist, and just not one of their own. Both girls are immediately intrigued.

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It’s slow going at first, with Anne silently observing Lena from afar, and Lena taking care of her wheelchair-bound mother. But when Anne offers to help after Lena has her house vandalized (which happens more than once), a friendship tinged with something else begins.

Lena is exciting and beautiful, so when she holds out a motorcycle helmet to Anne and asks, “Do you dare?” it’s easy to read between the lines. And after some initial gay panic, Anne does dare. Together, they’re carefree and those moments are a delight to watch.

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It’s, of course, not smooth sailing for the girls in this small-minded village. There’s a mob mentality scene that really puts this into perspective. And yet, these are two of the teens to come through the best in this film. That’s because this has also been a summer of rape, forced marriage and death. 

It makes for a movie that’s a bit sporadic and, in my opinion, it’s a shame we don’t get to see more of the relationship. Underwhelming at times and too fast-paced at others, it tries to tell perhaps too many stories, not giving us a full picture of any. Nonetheless, we have a sweet love story and two endearing characters in Anne and Lena who make the watch worthwhile.

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According to its Facebook page, the movie is set for release on June 4, 2015. You can check your local LGBT film festival to see if it’ll be playing before then.

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