- THE AUSTRALIAN -
The curious title of this very likeable British film refers to the names of the mother and son around whom the tart comedy revolves. Susan Bagnold (Monica Dolan), who is in her early 50s, lives in an English suburb with her 15-year-old son, Daniel (Earl Cave).
Susan has been abandoned by her husband who now lives in Florida with his new, younger, wife, and — she’s amazed to hear — drives a convertible. Susan works in a library and has few social contacts apart from her caring sister, Carol (Alice Lowe), and Astrid (Tamsin Greig), the talkative mother of Daniel’s best friend, Ky (Elliot Speller-Gillott).
Daniel, with his long hair and scruffy appearance, is a metalhead. He’s lazy, churlish and monosyllabic, but he’s looking forward to spending the summer with his dad in the US. That prospect ends abruptly when dad phones to call it off, using as an excuse his pregnant wife’s imminent delivery date. So Daniel and his mum have to spend the summer alone.
I’m sure in Days of the Bagnold Summer many will recognise teenagers like Daniel who are so self-absorbed that they have little to contribute. He has dreams of singing in a band and is encouraged by the gangling, engaging Ky; but the band to whose ad he responds turns out to be a trio of 10-year-olds.
Susan, meanwhile, who dresses in dowdy cardigans and wears thick glasses, is invited on a dinner date by Douglas Porter (Rob Brydon), Daniel’s history teacher. Daniel is appalled at the thought of his mum and his teacher getting together, but he needn’t worry because things don’t turn out too well.
In essence, this film — based on a graphic novel by Joff Winterhart, scripted by Lisa Owens and beautifully directed by Simon Bird — is about the slowly growing bond between mother and son. Simon Tindall’s strikingly dramatic widescreen photography is extremely impressive, but it’s the performances, and the truths inherent in the drama, that linger in the mind.
- David Stratton, THE AUSTRALIAN