Bereavement is seen through the eyes of a six-year-old girl in this assured, visually arresting debut from Catalan filmmaker Carla Simón. A delicate and dreamlike autobiographical drama, written and directed by Simón, it has won numerous awards including ‘Best First Feature Film’ at the Berlinale 2018 and ‘Best New Director’ at Spain’s Goya Awards.
In summer 1993, following the death of her parents, six year old Frida (Laia Artigas) leaves Barcelona and her grandparents for the countryside where she will now live with her uncle Esteve (David Verdaguer) and aunt Marga (Bruna Cusí). Exploring an unfamiliar and estranging rural world, she gradually gets to know her new ‘parents’ and their three-year old daughter Anna (Paula Robles), but – still burdened by the trauma of her profound and confusing loss, which as a young child she has no idea how to process – she struggles to settle into the new family dynamic.
Beautifully crafted, Summer 1993 establishes an evocative sense of place and time, and that the film draws on Simon’s personal recollections can be sensed in every convincingly imagined frame. But it’s nonetheless completely clear-eyed and unsentimental, aided by a really extraordinary performance from Laia Artigas as the confused young Frida, her eyes full of inchoate emotion. Lyrical, poetic and sensitive, it’s a distinctive and really impressive debut.