Dark Summer is a simple, urban love story set in Liverpool. It is a tale of the lossed innocence of the two young protagonists Jes and Abe. The film follows them on the voyage that is their...
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Dark Summer is a simple, urban love story set in Liverpool. It is a tale of the lossed innocence of the two young protagonists Jes and Abe. The film follows them on the voyage that is their relationship, through one long summer full of struggle and achievement, love and death and ultimately failure and reevaluation. Which is dictated not so much by their own conscious decision but by the intervention of fate. Shot entirely in Liverpool, the city is as much part of the film as the two main characters, personifying the juxtaposition of harshness and warmth with its beautiful yet raw surroundings. The ebb and flow of the River Mersey echoing the certainty that time will pass. Written by
Charles Teton <email@example.com>
Charles Teton's Dark Summer, which he produced and wrote as well as directed, is a first feature shot with a spare but eloquent style, mostly in Liverpool where the city's Economics Initiative Unit helped with finance. It tells the story of a young black amateur boxer (Steve Ako) who, while working as a mechanic on a scrap metal site, meets and takes up with the white daughter of the boss (Joeline Garner Joel). Dad is not best pleased and the lad is sacked. But he goes to live with the girl, gets her pregnant and attempts to start a new life with her. At the beginning of the film, we see him beaten for an area amateur championship and towards the end his first professional fight goes the wrong way too. And so gradually does their relationship. It Is almost as if fate has conspired against this simple, nice pair of innocents in a guilty world. The film accomplishes its sad tale almost as if spying on reality at various odd moments. It eschews narrative drive in favour of a slowly deepening sense of the way things often are. Only Augustus Pablo's reggae soundtrack animates it. Despite the difficulties put in front of your average patient viewer, who may well wonder why the film is so painfully slow without looking under its surface, Teton is very clearly a film-maker to watch. Whether many will watch Dark Summer is more open to question.
EMPIRE MAGAZINE by Clark Collis
MAYBE IT'S SOMETHING THEY PUT IN THE MERSEY. Or perhaps Liverpool kids just couldn't give a monkey's what their elders, and betters think. Whatever the case, on the silver screen at least. Scouse youth seems to like nothing better than copping off in a manner guaranteed to cause controversy, outrage and, in all likelihood, tragedy to boot. Ten years ago, in Letter To Brezhnev, it was Margi Clarke and co. trying to find a little romance among the Russian fleet. And now comes a Liverpool-set tale of love which crosses not only class but race as well. Abe (Ako) is a promising black amateur, boxer who falls in love with Jess (Joel) while working, at a scrap yard. Unfortunately she is the privately educated boss' daughter, and her father (Darwin) doesn't take too kindly to her fooling around with a hired hand. In order to escape such prejudice, the couple set up home at Abe's flat and, in the course of one long summer, find all their hopes shattered as bad luck and corruption do their damnedest to drive the lovers apart. Okay, so it's a story that wasn't exactly hot off the press in Shakespeare's time. The real problem with this is the fact that first-time director Teton seems more interested in photographing assorted Merseyside locales than filling in his central characters. Thus, for every minute we spend with Jess and Abe at least three are wasted capturing Liverpool landmarks in stationary, if admittedly good-looking, Cinemascope.
Not that the film doesn't have its good points. Both Ako and Joel do the best with what they are given, the boxing sequences are appropriately downbeat and the Augustus Pablo reggae soundtrack is fantastic. But, on the hole, this is very beautiful but, sadly rather dull.
THE OBSERVER by Philip French
Dark Summer should attract attention to it's 32-year-old British maker, Charles Teton, who raised the money, and wrote, produced, directed, edited and photographed this Widescreen movie on Liverpool locations. The story centres on Abe (Steve Ako), a working-class black, who embarks on an affair with his racist boss's daughter and ends up a triple loser - first he's sacked from his labouring job in a scrap yard then the girl walks out on him, and finally he takes a bad beating in his first fight as a professional boxer. Teton suggests a connection between the boy's defeated life and the despair of present-day Merseyside, and the movie proceeds through a succession of strikingly composed Cinemascope montages of the post industrial landscape across which Abe passes. The camera never moves and Teton deliberately refrains from making dynamic use of space. He doesn't even go into the boxing ring. Abe appears to inhabit a social vacuum and even the attractive reggae music eventually becomes monotonous. But there is enterprise and promise here, and one looks forward to Teton's next movie.
MS London by Dee Pilgrim
From a major movie made for millions, we turn to an independent production shot in Liverpool over a number of years as money, equipment and people became available. Director, writer and producer Charles Teton managed to put Dark Summer together against all odds and, although this is a small movie exploring small themes, it bodes well for Teton's future in film. This is basically a love story between a black boxer, Abe (Steve Ako) and white girl Jess (Joeline Garner Joel) who meet at Jess's father's scrap heap. They move in together as Abe concentrates on his hard, physical boxing regime and Jess concentrates on redecorating their flat for the birth of their baby. However, after a miscarriage, it seems all Jess and Abe's dreams start to unravel, leaving them without even the consolation of having each other. Shot in Widescreen Cinemascope with a haunting reggae soundtrack by Augustus Pablo, Dark Summer is really a mood poem - lots of long, long shots of the river Mersey, of Jess painting the nursery and solitary figure of Abe doing training runs, Dark Summer probably needs more of a story, but as a starting point for a new British talent, it's refreshing, to find someone who doesn't believe you need blood, guts, hatred and car chases to sell a movie.
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