Saturday, 19 July 2014

That Summer (1979)

That Summer is an enjoyable and overlooked entry in the coming of age genre starring a youthful Ray Winstone as the leading character Steve, newly released from borstal (shades of Scum) and landing a part time job in Torquay for the summer season. Whilst there, he finds love with the very attractive Julie Shipley, who is down from Leeds with her friend to work in the local hotel. 

Winstone gives a great naturalistic performance that is both beyond and before the cliched geezer stereotype he would become. Here he is not the hard man but instead a young and barely shaped rough diamond, with all the romanticism that the rites of passage love story requires to convince us. 

The film really captures the post punk/new wave era of the late 70s and early 80s with a really great and eclectic soundtrack that is often heard in snapshot via the wafting sounds of transistor radios across the sunkissed, over populated Torquay beach. I'm especially pleased to hear Eddie and the Hot Rods 'Do Anything You Wanna Do' because I've always felt that song was the closest this country had ever got to the anthemic qualities of a Springsteen crowd pleaser and, like any song from his cannon, it perfectly encapsulates the notion that there is a world beyond the inner cities that these kids have struggled to get by in. It's the kind of film you can't help but feel nostalgic for not only in regards to the music and the time it is set, but also in the realistic depiction and dramatic worth of being in your late teens and trying to make it on your own for the first time in your life.

Where the film fails however is the secondary sports related plot concerning Ray's character Steve and his recently discovered ability as a swimmer during his time at borstal. Eager to develop this on the south west coast he finds himself a rival, not only on the waves but for the girls affections too, in the unruly Glaswegian Jon Morrison and his surly gang. Morrison is an actor who, like Winstone, had previously impressed in more gritty BBC fare such as The Elephant's Graveyard and Just Another Saturday and, whilst their rivalry and dislike for one another is palpable, the sporting challenge Winstone must achieve in the film's climax feels rather tacked on and a bit too Hollywood for the film's previously realistic approach. Nevertheless, That Summer is still an enjoyable experience and one worth seeking out.

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