For most of us life isn’t like the movies. We seem to go day by day without a great deal of drama. And yet those days that seem so ordinary are what life is made of. Days of the Bagnold Summer, directed by Simon Bird, is that kind of movie. The drama and the comedy are just the kinds of things that may not seem like much at the time, but they are bricks of life.
Sue Bagnold (Monica Dolan) is a single mom raising her 15 year old son Daniel (Earl Cave) in the English suburbs. Daniel is your typical metalhead wannabe. He dreams of being in a band, but he’d have to be the front man since he doesn’t play an instrument. He’s scheduled to visit his father and his pregnant young wife in Florida that summer, but when his dad decides it’s not a good time, Daniel is left with an open summer. Daniel, the personification of ennui, is set to sleep the summer away, but Sue isn’t having it. She sends Daniel out to apply for jobs (which he does in a manner that is doomed to failure). And she tries to do things with him to rekindle the fun they had together when he was younger. Daniel just wants to listen to Metallica.
Sullen teenagers just don’t want to have fun, though do they? Daniel is at an age where he hasn’t really discovered who he is or even who he wants to be. That metalhead persona is really just a form of holding pattern. And so the summer goes, through “early days”, “salad days” and “dod days”. Along the way Sue gets asked out on a date by Daniel’s former teacher, which only complicates things for both of them. But basically, the two struggle to find a way to coexist in the new world teen nihilism.
It’s interesting the way Bird has found to show the distance between the two visually, like the clothesline with black on one side and pink on the other, or Daniel in the foreground eating and Sue in the background a room away eating separately). But as the summer moves forward, they come together more often, even though each is also finding a new understanding of themselves in the process.
There is not big event or blowup that summarizes the summer. And yet, we seem to understand that this summer is in its own way an important time in their lives. As such, this is a movie that captures the kind of lives most of us live. Little by little all these days add up into a life.
Days of Bagnold Summer is available on virtual cinema through local theaters and on digital platforms.
Photos courtesy of Greenwich Entertainment.