A quiet girl from a breaking home Grace (Niamh Walter) leaves for a holiday with her best friend and her mother to Cornwall. So starts Summer In the Shade and the viewer is soon aware that Grace is having to deal with complex issues internally and externally.

Nevertheless determined to have a good time Grace and Asta (Nyobi Hendry) make the best of the woods surrounding the house by constructing a den (this is pre-mobile and social media). Only to find one day that a homeless person is sleeping in it. Enraged they throw rocks at him, resulting in a head injury.

It’s an unwelcome surprise that he turns up at the house, his wound tended by Asta’s mother Kate (Rebecca Palmer). Who takes to him, asking him to stay. A move questioned by her friend Jenny (Fiona Gilles) visits for a glass of wine and then offers to read Niamh’s Tarot, which is dismissed as nonsense by Sid (Zaqi Ismail) who is now coming into his own.

Written by Isobel Boyce, and directed by Alice Millar, there is a problem with this film as it fails to get itself into a rhythm hinting at so many things that never get developed satisfactorily.

Yes, they do all flow towards Grace’s fragile mental state and her having to come to the harshness of the approaching adult world. Which include changes to her body as well as the breakup of her parents’ marriage.

But there’s a lot dangling too with Sid threatening to be some sort of cuckoo, the tarot reading, with dead rabbits and signs on walls there are allusions to the supernatural though not really followed through properly though the last section valiantly tries to salvage this element.

However if the narrative and structure are flimsy, the acting from the two young leads is anything but with Walter showing the pressures and confusion of a breaking home and the truths about family life (her father being a coward and neglectful person) that are understandable at that age. While Hendry, in a more upbeat role as the loyal friend, is entirely believable. And they squabble which is fine that’s what friends do then make up. The adults maybe don’t fare so well with mum being a stereotypical pot smoking new-age type with her tarot playing friend.

All tole it is a promising debut from Millar with some lovely photography capturing the balmy summer light through the woods.

Summer In The Shade will be available on digital platforms from 20 June 2022

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