Carla Simón’s autobiographical debut feature, Summer 1993, is a tender and understated story of six year old Frida (Laia Artigas) who, having recently lost her mother, struggles to reintegrate into a new nuclear family whilst tackling her grief. Death, life, and AIDS are all big issues for a child to confront, yet Simón treats them from an honest child perspective capturing the confusion, magic, and loneliness of grief as a child.
Shot in an almost cinéma vérité style, with long shots and sequences, we follow the natural emotional progression of Frida and her sister Anna (Paula Robles), who evidently played themselves and were a treat to watch. The most striking part of this film was that it allows the audience to really observe a child’s mentality and daily activities - ranging from playing with dolls and playing dress-up to feelings of estrangement with her new family. It’s beautifully downplayed, yet not underwhelming, and magical. This was the combination of all its elements; the script, the cast, the cinematography, and design - each factor acting more as breathing onlookers and allowing the magnetic perspective of Frida to drive the story. It’s that child-like perspective that holds the viewer's attention. It’s that bitter-sweet moment when innocence is cracked that relates to all audiences, whether they experienced grief at a young age or not.
Summer 1993 finds a great balance between narrative and atmosphere and gives the audience just enough story to follow Frida and when she finally articulates something about her deceased mother, it is more compelling than one could imagine. An outstanding debut and a delight to watch.
Overall Rating: 5/5
Writer & Director: Carla Simón
Producer: Valérie Delpierre
Executive producers: Valérie Delpierre, Maria Zamora
Cinematographer: Santiago Racaj
Production design: Mireia Graell
Editors: Didac Palou, Ana Pfaff
Music: Ernest Pipo, Pau Boïgues
Cast: Laia Artigas, Paula Robles, Bruna Cusí, David Verdaguer, Fermi Reixach