OK, I’m gonna lay this one out for you, and you gather your impressions: By Summer’s End is the story of a woman, Michal, having a tough time with her daughter, her husband (he’s cheating on her and everyone knows it), and her depressed sister (her husband left her a single mom), when suddenly a creepy dude starts approaching her kids at the park. Said creepy dude turns out to be the father who abandoned them years ago, leaving their mother a wreck and making a shamble of their lives.
You could not be blamed for thinking “Lifetime movie of the week”.
And yet, this entry in the Israel Film Festival is not nearly so pat. It is low key, and modestly filmed, though there are some striking images created throughout, but a funny thing happens when you run what could be a hack story through a culture with different ideas of political correctness.
The main thing, at least if you’re not part of that culture, is that you get a film that’s far more interesting to watch.
The Boy’s impression coming out of this is that all the characters were crap. Which is probably what I would’ve thought at his age. I contended that they were flawed and he allowed that, although very flawed he insisted.
I wouldn’t argue.
What makes this movie watchable, at least for me, is almost that they are all jerks, kinda. (We all are, kinda.)
Why does this make things better? Because the inclination—the inevitability, I daresay—in an American film would be to paint the lead sister as a heroic victim (wait, what?) and all the men in her life as bastards. It’s not nearly so simple here.
The movie teases us a bit. Michal’s father offers an excuse: I tried to stay in touch, I wrote you every day, I bought you presents, but your mom kept me away. Michal desperately wants to believe this while her sister rejects it outright. Just when you think you’ve discovered Chaim (the father) really is an irremediable liar, the movie throws another curve at you to suggest you don’t have the whole story.
Michal alienates her husband with her moodiness, but hubby is reckless enough to be spotted canoodling by his daughter (Maya), confirming for us that this isn’t a rumor or something she’s imagining.
Maya develops a relationship with Chaim, her grandfather, who teaches her about gardening and figures out a clever way to help her to learn to read and write. The titular end of the summer refers to the readiness of the vegetables in the garden and Maya’s deadline for passing a test to go up a grade.
Maya, like all the other characters, is kind of a pill. She simply refuses to pay attention in school. Down to where, when she’s taking this test to see if she can move up a grade, she just doodles on the back of it
Lesson? People are difficult. And kind of a problem.
You gotta fish or cut bait.
And cutting bait has consequences.