Saturday, 12 May 2018

One Summer (1983)

Written by Liverpudlian playwright Willy Russell, One Summer is the story of two scouse schoolboys who flee their life of crime and gang turf wars to seek refuge in the Welsh countryside in the titular brief summer. For my money, it is arguably one of the finest evocations of the scouse character I've seen. I was going to say the juvenile scouse character but, to be honest, there are still grown men in Liverpool who dismiss anything that isn't traditionally macho or they don't understand as 'soft'.

A startlingly young David Morrissey and Spencer Leigh are our two leads and from the off, Morrissey shows the abilities that has made him the reliable star he is today. Leigh on the other hand can be quite frustrating with a slightly more wooden manner and an irritating ability to screech his lines at several decibels too loud (and they wonder where Harry Enfield got his 'Scousers' characters from?) It's surprising then that, off the back of this and Derek Jarman's Caravaggio, it was Leigh who, alongside the likes of Tim Roth and Gary Oldman, was proclaimed to be a key member of the1980s Brit Pack movement of actors by The Face journalist Elissa Van Poznak. 

In contrast Morrissey, who chose to take up the offer to train at RADA followed by a stint at the Liverpool Playhouse, has perhaps proven that slow and steady ultimately wins the race. Both young actors are grounded by a great turn from James Hazeldine as their rural mentor, Kidder. Hazeldine was an accomplished character actor on stage and screen and brings every  one of his years experience to bear on the production, whilst remaining deeply generous to the pair of young leads. His premature death in 2002 at the age of 55 has left a gaping hole in British TV.

Made during the summer of '82 against the backdrop of the Falklands War and the rampant Thatcherism that was notoriously setting in place Liverpool's 'managed decline', One Summer is certainly evocative of that period but it hasn't really dated all that much. Today's innercity kids face the same problems and society at large still believe in the 'lock 'em up' solution to juvenile delinquency. With that in mind, it's easy to see not only One Summer's influence on subsequent films and TV (including the work of Shane Meadows) but also its potential to be remade as a film (something Russell has often expressed a hope for) as it's still highly relevant. Should it ever occur, perhaps David Morrissey could now take the Kidder role?

This was the perfect mini series to watch across last week's long and unusually hot May bank holiday weekend.

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