For his 4th film, Swiss Italian writer director Rolando Colla follows the adventures of a group of kids discovering freedom and love while vacationing in a camping. Summer Games centers on two kids: Nic, a 12-year old boy whose mother and abusive father are trying to work things out one last time and Marie, a teenage girl desperately looking for a dad she never met.
Both kids were raised in somewhat dysfunctional families and they carry emotional scars, which translate differently: Marie is somewhat rebellious and daring while Nic doesn’t feel pain or emotions – at least that’s what he claims, repeating it several times to his friends.
As for their parents, Nic’s dad is your typical abusive drunk while his mom seems to get stuck in this vicious relationship: every time she tries to get away, she ends up being ineluctably attracted back to him. As for Marie’s mom, she seems to be haunted by a secret regarding Marie’s dad.
What makes Summer Games interesting is that the film has many layers. When it comes to adults, it mostly focuses on portraying abusive relationships. Rather than just portraying Nic’s dad as a monster, he seems to be sick, prisoner of a violence he cannot control – every time he hurts somebody, he comes back later to repent, knowing he is “disgusting” – in his own words at the end through a not so subtle metaphor. His wife is not just the victim either as every time she takes him back, like if she was addicted to those highs and lows.
In the same way, the kids are not just portrayed as innocent victims of their family environments. Even though, they are clearly affected by those parental situations, they are making their own choices. Facing freedom, love and sexual arousing, they react in different ways, with both innocence and cruelty.
Would the movie have kept exploring those grey areas, it could have probably come to a highly fulfilling and realistic conclusion staying true to those tones. Unfortunately, Mr. Colla’s script goes in a different direction, looking for romanticism and redemption.
While the result will probably please a popular audience, it looks like a quick and easy fix to wrap all storylines. This feeling is confirmed by the fact that the film which, for the most part is dark and slightly twisted, concludes with corny imagery: Nic and Marie will take a long walk on the beach and will swim underwater together; Marie will discover the truth about her dad and find peace, with the help of her friends; Nic’s mom will take her pitiful husband back once again, somewhat suggesting he finally learned his lesson.
You guessed it: in just a couple weeks of vacation at a camping, everybody fixed their problems. Call me cynical but I didn’t know camping had such therapeutic values. It’s not that I wanted everything to end tragically but this happy ending sounds too good to be true and doesn’t match the rest of the movie – one can imagine how that story would have ended in the hands of a French or Swedish filmmaker. Don’t get me wrong, I found Mr. Colla’s movie quite satisfying and appealing but because of the conclusion, he failed at delivering a sustainable impact on the spectators, beyond the screening room.
Director: Rolando Colla – Actors: Armando Condolucci, Fiorella Campanell– Running Time: 1:41 – Year: 2011 – Country: Italy, Switzerland