Title: A Dozen Summers
Director: Kenton Hall
Major Players: Scarlet Hall, Hero Hall, Kenton Hall
Out Of Five: Four
At the start of the summer, all the talk was about the film that took us inside the mind of an 11 year old girl. It cost millions, is making even more and it’s a great film. But let’s turn that on its head. Let’s look at the world through the eyes of a pair of 12 year old twins living in the UK. The world’s still just as baffling for them as it is for the 11 year old, but these two decide to make a film about it. And this time round it’s a low budget British movie which starts its gradual roll out this week in Leicester – not Leicester Square, just Leicester. It may not be Inside Out, but it is most certainly a complete and utter treat.
The story of A Dozen Summers, such as it is, goes like this. We’re taken into the lives of Maisie and Daisy McCormack (Scarlet Hall and Hero Hall, respectively), twelve year old twins. They look and sound so alike that the easy way to distinguish them is that, in their near- permanent school uniforms, Daisy wears trousers and Maisie wears a skirt. Neither of them suffers fools gladly. Daisy is the more direct of the two, always saying what she thinks, while Maisie is the gentler, more considerate one, convinced that her sister is more than a little bonkers.
Their lives include school, where they have a group of friends and a sworn enemy, school bully Jennifer (Holly Jacobson). Outside of that, they live with their dad (Kenton Hall) while their mother, Jacqueline (Sarah Warren) has been making her way as a model (not a real one, as Daisy points out) and moving from one unsuitable boyfriend to another, until she settles with one in an expensive minimalist house. The girls would like their dad to find somebody as well, and try to bring him and one of their teachers together.
This is one of those films where there’s not a great deal of physical action, but it’s not really the narrative that’s important here. It’s all about taking a different approach to children’s films. And it gets off to a cracking start. Colin Baker’s Narrator opens up what appears to be a traditional, almost Disney-esque children’s story, complete with gooey music. Except that it’s not. He – and we – are brought down to earth with a bump when the twins challenge him for filming in the school playground. Although, as you can’t see him, and the girls are talking straight into the camera, it almost feels like we’re the ones being confronted.
The tone and style of the film are set right there. It upturns conventions with relish and enthusiastically lobs in cinematic references, mainly for the adults in the audience. Reservoir Dogs, Titanic and even Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal all find their way in there. As the girls themselves point out, they can do anything because it’s a film: all they have to do to change scenes, whether real or fantasy, is snap their fingers Mary Poppins style. And, while some of the fantasy scenes range from the quirky to downright eccentric, it all somehow makes sense, even when we’re looking at the twins sat in the park in their bunny-eared onsies.
And then there’s the purely visual gags. Whatever’s going on in the foreground, make sure you keep an eye on the background, because there’s a good chance something’s going on there as well. Even spelling and grammar pedants have their moment, courtesy of the sign on the door of the corner shop. “Only three studnets allowed” it commands. And does it again inside the shop.
A Dozen Summers is a children’s film, for sure, but does that mean it’s for them or about them? The answer is both and director Kenton Hall sums it up when he describes it as “a film that children could claim as their own, yet which adults could use to jog their memories.” I’d go further and say it’s for children of all ages, from 12 to as far as you like! And I can’t believe you won’t like it.
A Dozen Summers opens in Leicester in Friday, 21 August and goes on limited release around the UK. It’s also reviewed on Talking Pictures.