Review by Sean Boelman
Based on the graphic novel by Joff Winterhart, Days of the Bagnold Summer is a coming-of-age dramedy set in a world that so many of us know all too well. Mildly funny and extremely heartwarming, this may not reinvent the wheel in a familiar genre, but its feeling of sincerity goes a long way in making it enjoyable nevertheless.
The film follows a teenage boy who is forced to spend his summer living with his single mother and listening to heavy metal music. The story hits all the regular beats of the formula without much deviation, but since adolescence is such a universal experience, these emotions will never cease to ring true.
One of the interesting things about the movie, though, is that writer Lisa Owens seems just as invested (if not more so) in the story of the mother than her son. The result is a single mother character that is refreshingly well-rounded and does not feel in any way like the caricatures that parental figures typically are in films such as this.
Admittedly, the movie doesn’t do quite enough with the specifics of the situation. It would have been nice to see a bit more time put into developing the mother’s dating life or the son’s passion for music, but it’s still admirable to see a film try to do something somewhat different in its portrayal of growing up.
At under ninety minutes in length, there was definitely plenty of room for them to expand on some of these ideas a little more heftily. The first act exploring the mother-son relationship is pretty effective, but the final act which tries to go into more of the subplots feels entirely rushed. The result is immensely watchable but also a tad forgettable.
Earl Cave makes for a very charming lead. His comedic delivery is very strong, but he also pulls it off in a way that doesn’t feel exaggerated. Monica Dolan struggles with some of the more emotionally weighty scenes, but her performance is mostly effective. And comedian Rob Brydon has a funny (as always) bit part.
It does feel like a bit more could have been done on a technical level. Most comedy movies adapted from graphic novels have a visual quirkiness to them borrowed from their original medium, but this feels mostly plain. In his feature directorial debut, Simon Bird could have spared to do something a bit more distinctive.
Days of the Bagnold Summer is a charming little film. Even though it is unlikely to make a very big splash in the sea of coming-of-age comedies that come out every year, it’s cute in a way that gets it an earnest recommendation.
Days of the Bagnold Summer hits theaters and VOD on February 19.