This beautiful film filled with dreamlike imagery is a real little gem to watch unfold.
Written and directed by Katie Found, this gorgeously tender and heartfelt film deals with sensitive issues surrounding mental health and suicide in a completely absorbing way.
Sixteen year old Claudia (Markella Kavenagh) is struggling to cope in the aftermath of her mother’s death – even more so given that she was was homeschooled and kept away from the outside world by her mother. But soon an unexpected friendship and relationship begins with Grace (Maiah Stewardson) who gently helps her to explore life while helping her to deal with her fears and anxiety.
As well as Katie Found’s delicate script that leads to some lovely moments between the girls, Matthew Chuang’s gorgeous cinematography adds a whole dreamlike quality to the film. This is particularly seen in the scene in which are fiddling with beads, creating words and talking gently or when they are redecorating Claudia’s room – it draws you even further into their growing friendship in an understated way. All of the colours that seem gently enhanced really make the film a visual treat, while the variety of camera angles used add an extra intimacy to the story that is built very early on in the film.
There is no sense of hurry about Found’s film, it gently unfolds and while it would it be interesting to have known more about Grace’s family (of whom are only given snippets of scenes) and why she depends on Claudia as much as Claudia depends on her, it is a really focused film. It is filled with compassion, understanding and of course plenty of moments filled with joy that really capture the strength of the bond between Claudia and Grace.
Both of the central performances from Kavenagh and Stewardson are wonderful to watch and explore as the story develops – they have a wonderful naturalness and warmth that makes their developing relationship even more enjoyable to watch unfold. Kavenagh in particular has a complex character to deal with as Claudia struggles to deal with her emotions – but she handles it with great maturity and it is wonderful to see how the character begins to blossom. In lovely contrast to this, Stewardson delivers an instantly likeable and well grounded performance as Grace – capturing her protective instincts towards Claudia really well.
My First Summer is a glorious treat of a love story that is beautiful to watch unfold from start to finish.
By Emma Clarendon
My First Summer will be available to watch as part of the BFI Flare Festival through the BFI Player from the 17th to the 28th March. Find out more here.