I was recently contacted by Kenton Hall, the writer/director/co-star of the British film I’m about to discuss, offering me a chance to review his independent project prior to its release. And I replied with a, “Jolly good ol’ chap, I’m gob-smacked, you must be taking a piss, I’d love to.” Actually, I didn’t say any of those things. I’m Canadian and I had to look up most of that phrasing. Nonetheless, I was flattered and by no means does that personal contact make me obliged to give the film a positive review. But I will anyway.
Sorry for the delay between paragraphs. I had to pause for a dinner break. Alright. Full disclosure. I started watching Fargo to accompany my dinner and I finished it as well. Once you start that movie, there’s no turning it off. Back to task. This is a review for A Dozen Summers. It is a charming family comedy that follows the lives of 12-year-old twin sisters. From my perspective at least, no truly recognizable names among the cast with the exception of Colin Baker of Doctor Who fame and Ewen MacIntosh who famously played Keith in the original version of The Office. Most everyone else has only 1 or 2 more IMDb credits than me. Myself having none. Although, I did audition for a short-lived Canadian TV-series called “Denim Blues” which was a blatant rip-off of anything with name Degrassi attached to it. I was not cast, but interestingly enough, future Golden Globe winner, Sandra Oh, was cast. We didn’t audition for the same role.
ADS starts off as a modern day fairy-tale, narration et al, enter Colin Baker. The camera focuses on two young children eating their breakfast, follows them to school all the while narration dictates that they are about to embark on a great adventure. At this point, the voice over is interrupted by our two female leads, Daisy and Maisie, played by newcomers Hero and Scarlet Hall. I know what you’re thinking, but no there’s relation to Daryl. They start to question the narrator’s intentions for filming the two other kids and after being unable to convince the girls’ that there isn’t any wrongdoing, the narrator relinquishes the camera’s point of view to the twins. Here they take over the film, complete with their own instant editing abilities.
They discuss what sort of movie they’d like to make with amusing suggestions before settling on the idea of just making it about themselves. Along the way, we discover the Daisy and Maisie are children of divorce, but their parents have remained friends. They live with their author father (played by their real life father) and their mother is off somewhere being a “model”. We see the twins home life and it’s a good one even though they find their father to be too much of a “Dad” sometimes. We meet their mother. She’s trying to make amends for not being around. She’s got a new steady, fella and a new house and she wants to make it a second home for them. They go about their everyday lives which including the usual preteen issues: bullying, first loves, a wood-chipper. No, sorry. I’m pretty sure that last one was from Fargo. Each girl has full control of the camera, not physically, but they decide what you see with their new found editing abilities. Whether using it to speed up time so they miss the school day or instantly travel home to using it for “What If” cutaways to help envision all possible outcomes for various scenarios as though they were in their own choose your own adventure novel. Coincidently, I believe Daryl Hall is very much into those novels, but don’t quote me on that.
Please don’t think I’m not taking to movie seriously, I am. I just don’t want to give too much away. I want everyone to be able to experience first hand without knowing everything. That may spoil the magic. This is very much a family film, but not directly aimed at children. Their is enough inventiveness and creativity with the storytelling to hold parents’ interest. I laughed out loud on a number of occasions and when I wasn’t laughing, I was smiling. Hero and Scarlet may be offspring to the director and the parts were tailor made for them, but they are naturals and obviously, they have a built-in chemistry with one another. I am not usually a fan of kids in movies because you can see them “acting”; this definitely was not the case. However, this in in reference to the leads. A couple of the rookie performers seemed a tad wooden and dry, but there’s enough charm in the movie to overlook it. Besides, melba toast is wooden and dry and people still like that (myself included). This movie had a very low budget and it maybe couldn’t afford many reshoots because there is a scene with an abundance of blinking that really could have used an additional take.
All in all, it’s a simple straight-forward story told in an unusual but palatable way. I liked A Dozen Summers. It was highly enjoyable and I will share it with my son. There have been some big budget movies (and even some low budget moves) released this summer that lacked the originality that this movie carries. I hope people will seek this movie out and it exposes Kenton Hall to a wider audience. He has a unique voice and I’d like to see more from him.