Student Critics' Reviews: Au revoir l'été

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This year, the Student Critics Jury at Edinburgh International Film Festival made their picks of the Fest. Today our coverage continues with Rebecca Raab's review of Au revoir l'été.

Some sort of graduation

With his romantic drama Au revoir l’été, Japanese writer-director Koji Fukada pays homage to Eric Rohmer. Set in the chatoyant light of late summer against the background of the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, the film portrays a week in the life of a teenage girl who is about to set the sails for her future.

When Sakuko (Fumi Nikaido) arrives with her aunt Mikie (Mayu Tsuruta) at their summer residence, a relative’s house at the Japanese coast close to Tokyo, where she wants to prepare for her university entrance exams, she finds herself in an ambivalent environment of shifting relationships. It is within these circumstances of evolving friendships, difficult family bonds and the delicate ties between long ago lovers that Sakuko develops a sense of bigger social responsibility.

Without losing its grounding in the character’s everyday life, Au revoir l’été brilliantly plays with the question of uncertainty: “What will be coming next and where will I go?” It is precisely in this abeyance that the film gains its depth. The highly nuanced performances by the actors play out these ambivalent in-between states of approach and distance as everybody simultaneously mirrors and projects the struggling of someone else. The camera perspective likewise remains at a half distance, close enough to approach a character but never so close as to allow the viewer to fully monopolize or embrace them.

When Sakuko leaves it is a goodbye in many ways but none that feels like the final end. Each of them will take something away from that week between August and September, when summer slowly turns into autumn; some sort of growth, if not some sort of personal graduation.

– Rebecca Raab

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The Student Critics Jury is a group of bright young student film critics mentored at Edinburgh International Film Festival.

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