The Summer Road Trip Story Showcasing Platonic Male Friendship and Intimacy
By: Lauren L. McKenna
“Before Summer Ends” tackles many themes; dislocation, homesickness, and camaraderie.
None, though, shined as bright as how it displayed platonic male intimacy, a depiction scarcely seen on Hollywood screens.
The film’s stars, Arash, Hossein, and Ashkan, three emerging talents, break down the walls of toxic masculinity and show the world the true value of friendship.
The film recounts the refreshing road-trip narrative that is so often at the heart of stories that reach beyond the screen and into audience’s souls.
In “Before Summer Ends”, three 30-something year-old friends embark on their dream road-trip through the south of France, something of a melancholic voyage, since one of the friends will soon return home to Iran.
After several years of studying in France, Arash has found it difficult to adapt to French culture. As the trio drive from Paris, and across the French countryside, they stop along the way, where it is clear that each location serves to record lasting memories.
Hence, each stop is something of a vignette, like, a village parade, a fun fair, and a local campsite where our three protagonists rendezvous with several female campers.
Shot in documentary style, the film toggles between documentary and drama. With most French cinema, it is wise not to get too comfortable with the director’s improvisational style.
The original concept was a documentary based on the leads shot across a three year span. After a change of heart from the director, as well as enthusiasm from the actors, previous footage was scrapped and the improvised road-trip film was born.
The relaxed and naturalistic performances suggest and ultimately reveal something more complex. For instance, the actors play versions of themselves. Their characters’ names, for example, are the same as their own.
What is striking about the men is their deft ability to move between serious moments, humor, and then with ease, return to moments of deep thought. The subtlety of the performance is remarkable, and it has as much to do with the direction as it does with the actors themselves.
Therefore, the film intermingles and finesses the complicated emotions that the men share. At the same time, it explores the awkwardness of masculine heterosexual expectations.
At the campsite, for example, the men immerse themselves in the action of chasing women. The exchanges point to the awkwardness involved in not only romance; moreover, the sequence points to the hyper-charged moment men and women are currently negotiating.
In effect, the film offers a touching depiction of male friendship. The more traditionally rendered macho ways associated with mainstream Hollywood, where men rarely talk about feelings, is challenged in this movie.
Here, men take the time to regularly communicate, engage their sentiment for one another, and do not shy away from showing they care through intimate physical contact.
Working knowledge of the production may be needed to truly appreciate the onscreen performance. Director, Maryam Goormaghtigh, spent three years prior working with the cast and trusted their ability portray themselves honestly.
No dialogue was scripted, with only the plot of Arash returning to Iran and the road-trip entailed to the actors.
Many of the stories divulged in the film are true to life, including the tale of Arash gaining significant weight to avoid military service. The honesty that is portrayed on camera clearly comes from a very strong connection and working relationship with Goormaghtigh.
Goormaghtigh is also responsible for the superb cinematography. Her use of light and shade filters, the film’s colour cinematically, revealed the nuanced relationship between the men.
Beginning her career in documentary film, Goormaghtigh demonstrated a strong ability to grab moments between the dialogue, the looks, the silences, and the introspection that both characters and spectators are invited to explore.
She captured 70 hours of footage in two and half weeks of filming for “Before Summer Ends”, yet she brought a precision to the film that evokes the unease of living in a different country, whilst yearning for one’s homeland.
The result is that “Before Summer Ends” is amusing and affective. It is a docu-drama that brings you home, as it were. It contains the very real feelings that arise with dislocation, homesickness, and camaraderie.
“Before Summer Ends” is screening during the 23rd edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema on March 8-18 at the Lincoln Center.
The festival will host for the first time a “Salut les Jeunes” day on Monday, March 12, featuring four selections from the lineup that focus on the experiences of young people.
Special passes and perks are available for French film lovers under 40 who watch all four films. Tickets are available at filmlinc.org.