Directed by: Simon Bird
Written by: Lisa Owens
Starring: Earl Cave, Monica Dolan, Rob Brydon, Alice Lowe and Elliott Spellett-Gillott
Days of the Bagnold Summer marks the debut feature film from former Inbetweener Simon Bird. Bird, working off a script adapted by his wife, Lisa Owens, from a graphic novel of the same name by Joff Winterhart, weaves a tender story about an idle summer and the effect it has on a relationship between mother and son.
Sue Bagnold (Dolan) is your archetypal librarian. Short, round-faced with oversized square glasses and cropped hair; she wears unflattering blouses and long-skirts on the daily. Daniel Bagnold (Cave) is a broody metal-head with long greasy hair; he is constantly dressed in black. Despite Sue’s best efforts, their relationship is strained on account of Daniel’s absent father, now living in Florida with a new wife and a baby on the way.
Daniel’s misplaced anger towards his mother doesn’t hide the similarity between the two characters. They both exhibit and enjoy a particularly dry brand of humour and both struggle with social interaction. Sue encourages her son, which he interprets as nagging. She can see the similarities between them and doesn’t want for Daniel, the isolated life she leads. She is worried that Daniel’s sadness will turn to complete apathy, trying to motivate him before it’s too late.
During the summer months, Sue ventures into the dating scene for the first time in over a decade with Daniel’s History teacher Mr. Porter (Brydon), much to Daniel’s disdain. Daniel tries to find a purpose in his young life and overcome his apparent social anxiety by joining a local metal band. The film really flourishes during the scenes between Sue and Daniel. Daniel, given his age, wants to keep his mother at a distance and at times he finds quite nasty ways to do so. Sue is empathetic towards her son, possibly blaming herself for the fact that Daniel must grow up without a father. She takes his snide remarks on the chin, responding with her wry sense of humour. However, she spends her nights in bed alone, weeping.
If this sounds a bit miserable, it isn’t thanks to a particularly strong debut from Bird. Bird is in tune with familial life and with middle-class English suburbia. The humour and Bird’s visual flare constantly shine through the picture. In the end it is an uplifting film with a fabulous score from Scottish band Belle and Sebastian.