A graduate of the successful Inbetweeners tv and film series, Simon Bird makes his directorial debut with Days of the Bagnold Summer, a gentle but effective coming of age story set against the most mundane of British backdrops. With comic support turns, a Belle and Sebastian soundtrack and a competitive price plan for potential buyers on streaming, Days of the Bagnold Summer might well be one of the few British movies to make an impression during the 2020 lockdown; it’s a sweet, original movie that deserves to find an audience.
Earl Cave plays Daniel Bagnold, a young man with a long hair/hoodie combo and a grudge; his father promised him a summer in Florida, where his brand of uber-miserablism might have marked him out as something special. That won’t be happening, however, and a long, deathly-dull summer living with his librarian mum Sue (Monica Dolan) beckons. Daniel is intent of pushing the boundaries of his home life, and experiments with coming home in a state of inebriation; meanwhile his mother seeks solace in a stuttering relationship with a local lothario (Rob Bryden).
Observational humour is the stock-in-trade of Bird’s lightweight but tart film, managing to portray the relationship between mother and son in a way that’s sensitive to both parties. Dolan does a great job of conveying Sue’s frustration at her son’s rebellion against her; having never rebelled herself, she finds it impossible to understand why her little boy has turned against her. Cave, equally, manages to make Daniel’s horror at his mother’s suffocating ways both understandable and sympathetic; this is a rare teen movie that doesn’t demonise either parent or teen. And it is funny; Daniel’s attempt to find a band to play in leads to a lovely sight gag.
Based on a graphic novel by Joff Winterhart and with a screenplay by Lisa Owens, Days of the Bagnold Summer cultivates a unique stand-point by leaning into perennial British drabness and locating something worthwhile and vibrant within. In a summer where most of our plans have been replaced by the most mundane of realities, Bird’s comedy dodges contrivances and sitcom gags in favour of a more gentle, thoughtful account of how surviving cruel setbacks eventually provides the fuel for a better life to come.
Days of the Bagnold Summer is out today in the UK; £4.99 rental from Amazon below.