A Dozen SummersBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 19 August 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
A Dozen Summers (Credit: Monkey Basket Films)
Starring Scarlet and Hero Hall,
         With Kenton Hall, Sarah Warren, Colin Baker, 
Ewen MacIntosh, David Knight, Holly Jacobson, Quinton Nyrienda, And Tallulah Sheffield    
Written And Directed by Kenton Hall
Produced by Alexzandra Jackson and Kenton Hall, 
Music Composed by Andrew Stamp

Right in the middle of the usual glut of mindless action blockbusters, remakes, reboots, and sequels, and forced comedy/relationship movies comes something a lot more modest in production glitz, glamour and capital. This is a good thing as it has much to offer in depth and is consequently the more memorable and significant for it. I was given the chance to see this film ahead of its UK release this Friday on the small screen, and may well be one of those that goes to support its (at least initially) limited run across a number of towns and cities. My connection to the film of course comes from working for this news and review website, and Colin Baker's involvement (and the man certainly makes his mark in typically resounding fashion). Yet ultimately the film is very much focused on the lives of a wonderfully engaging pair of twins who are just starting out in secondary school and who have quite a bit of creative spark to offer the world around them

The plot is very straightforward and this enables the film to throw up some quirky surprises in elegant fashion. Maisie and Daisy are two twins who live with their  divorced father Henry, and who infrequently catch up with their rather bohemian and young-hearted mother Jacqueline; seemingly never settling for one boyfriend for too long, such are her ever-changing needs. The girls are certainly bright enough, and have a bit of street smarts too, but that does not mean they can't be bothered by bullies or fall for the wrong person their age. They do not just go about their business in typical coming of age fashion, but instead have a keen awareness of the fourth wall of the actual movie they are featured in. Consequently they are able to make the film (especially in the opening half) have a few sidetracks and digressions which reflects their equally vivid imaginations. Thus the audience is treated to playful exploration of  thrillers, period dramas and rom-com genres, as well as the kind of behaviour of protagonists who feel reality tv self-consciousness

For simplicity's sake, in general one of the identical twins has hair bunched up, whilst the other has it resting down  but even if that weren't the case they are distinct from one another and have as much in common as not. The girls' self-awareness and quick wit is reflected in the film, and most of the supporting characters are shown to have flaws and strengths in equal measure. This even extends to giving some likeability to the school bullies, and overly paranoid shopkeeper (Ewen MacIntosh) who will not tolerate more than three kids in at a time, lest they succeed in stealing items. The film wants to reflect our British reality as much as show all sorts of dynamic imaginative flair.

As strong as the acting, music (Andrew Stamp puts in a lot of excellent work to make scenes breath) and editing all are, there are some signs of this project not having an endless well of finance to invest in. I also thought the plot could have easily allowed for a good ten to twenty more minutes screen time, and there were some elements such as Henry's new girlfriend being a different sort of challenge - but one he was more emotionally prepared for - feeling like a scene or two more would have really conveyed the emotions and personalities better. Also the decision not to do more with the Jane Austen parody was a bit unfortunate. If maybe understandable as that setting was likely up there in terms of cost, it still deserved a little bit more development so as not to feel like one component of a sketch show.

 Nonetheless, there are a lot of good intentions behind this little gem. Kenton Hall is the person with the most to do,  not only starring in a decent role as the twins' father but also directing, producing and including his own band  called Ist. Hall was mindful of producing something that serves to meet the high expectations children have, as  they are remarkably astute and critical thinkers. He placed trust in his own twin daughters carrying the movie,  knowing that by playing characters close to their real life selves, the audience could invest in real people with  wholly authentic and three dimensional personalities who are having to deal with all sorts of challenges. In review  material Hall was very clear in his objective to have child-like aspects without falling into the trap of being childish,  which any given film can be guilty of if not careful. And I commend him and his team for managing to produce  something organic and marching very much to its own tune. There is precious little material anyone reasonable  would just dismiss as 'puerile'.

 And what of Colin Baker, given that this review is primarily for Doctor Who fans? He certainly plays a memorable  role helping bookend the film with a combination of assertive narration and cantankerous indignation as he is  surprised by the combined might of the twins (and later some other people they know from school). Whether this  was meant as a clever reference to The Twin Dilemma (whose child actors were undoubtedly much weaker than  the  Hall girls) or not, the humour of the movie is rarely better than here. It feels contemporary, it feels satirical and  yet  also affectionate, as if the old-school narrator still has something to offer, but just needs to acquire a different  cast of  willing participants.. We are also teased with maybe seeing Colin on stage in the middle of the film, as his  harmonic  voice projects to a somewhat distracted audience, but ultimately the viewer must wait till the very end credits to see Mr Baker properly onscreen.

A very enjoyable effort from a talented cast and crew, this will hopefully capture enough of an audience on cinema release and also be popular on TVs, tablets and Smartphones. It certainly has enough potential to generate either a continuation of the story or a loose sequel using the same core cast.