25 February 2016 | 6:38 pm | David O’Connell

"Enjoyable, but feels lesser fare than the themes warrant."

Set in 1971, La Belle Saison (Summertime) gives us a slice of the social history of France, as a young rural girl falls in love with a Parisian feminist.

When Delphine (Iza Higelin) moves from her parent's farm to Paris, she becomes infatuated with a political activist, Carole (Cecile De France).  As Delphine learns about the politics of feminism, she also falls in love with Carole. Soon they are involved in a relationship, but when Delphine's father suffers a stroke, she realises she is needed to manage her family farm. The question is, can a relationship that is only marginally tolerated in the urbane environment of Paris, be maintained under the watchful glare of small town life?

There is a playfulness about Summertime that underlies its themes of self discovery and equality. It pervades the entire film, adding a lighter touch to the message, and a subtle degree of shade.  As Carole and Delphine embrace their sexuality there is certainly a cost, one that perhaps neither is truly willing to pay. Yet it is the joy in that relationship, the love and the playful sensuality that is the most memorable. It is certainly a bitter-sweet tale, but there is a lot to enjoy in it.

Although, it must be said that perhaps this is the flaw in Summertime as well. It never feels that it goes in hard enough with its theme of queer equality. In its gentle and considered approach it underplays some of the harsher moments. Unfortunately Summertime feels a slighter work for it.    De France and Higelin certainly have charisma on screen. The yin and yang relationship they form is entirely believable, both in a platonic and sexual sense. De France is perfect as the educated, political Parisian. She carries her emotions on her sleeve, and is courageous and forthright in voicing her views. By contrast Higelin is far more guarded, but ironically, far more forthright in pursuit of her desires. There is a contemplative quietness about her, a pause that you always imagine her evaluating and planning, before getting on with the job. Her reticence to come out, is born of a practicality and an understanding of what it would mean going forward.

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter

Enjoyable, but feels lesser fare than the themes warrant. 

Originally published in X-Press Magazine