“The film’s sumptuous sensuality and contained drama will do just enough to sustain tension for its relatively short runtime, and show that Llorente in his third feature-length film has control over his craft and material.”
Continuing the recent trend in Spanish cinema of shooting where you grew up (see Carla Simón’s Alcarràs or Elena López Riera’s El agua, for example), Diego Llorente uses his native region of Asturias as backdrop for a film about the carefree safety of the places you have known since childhood versus the harsh and monotonous realities of the world now that you’ve grown up. Notas sobre un verano (Notes on a Summer) is a film that lingers both in its execution and in the mind of the viewer, with its all too relatable decisions to be made and its lived in slice-of-life feeling. Carried by Katia Borlado’s naturalistic performance in her first lead role, the film’s sumptuous sensuality and contained drama will do just enough to sustain tension for its relatively short runtime, and show that Llorente in his third feature-length film has control over his craft and material.
Marta (Borlado) lives in Madrid with her boyfriend Leo (Antonio Araque). Working several jobs, including teaching young kids how to swim, she is in that phase of life where you think, “Is this it?” When the summer holidays arrive she decides to leave Madrid and go back to her hometown of Gijón for the summer. Catching up with old friends and painting the town red, Marta enjoys living a life without worry for a couple of weeks. When an old flame is rekindled Marta becomes torn between her former boyfriend Pablo (Álvaro Quintana), with whom the sex is passionate but who has little to offer her in terms of a future, and life in Madrid with Leo which brings stability but has turned into a bit of a routine. A surprise visit by Leo only complicates things further, and Marta is forced to choose between the ease of her old life and the possibilities of her new one.
Marta hovers in that area between youth and grown-up, and Llorente and Borlado accurately nail her anxiety. Many things draw her to her former life: it is suggested she was a talented swimmer, and her talent for painting gets full display; all things she doesn’t have time for anymore, since she is working several jobs to stay afloat and also still writing a thesis on the side. She is reminded of a time when life was simpler, and that has a pull on Marta. So has the sex with Pablo, uncomplicated and passionate. The contrast to her adult life is sharply drawn, but Llorente doesn’t favour one over the other and lets the viewer decide if Marta is doing right or wrong.
Like the aforementioned films, in particular Alcarràs, Notas sobre un verano is not so much concerned with plot as it is with depicting a mood, its naturalistic style also reminiscent of yet another Spanish director, Jonás Trueba. What they all have in common is a style that is not truly cinéma vérité, but certainly akin to it, mixing the audience in with people they can relate to, especially audiences of a certain age. It is an exciting era for Spanish cinema, with a new generation of filmmakers who go back to their roots to show contemporary Spain in a way that the generation before them, led by Pedro Almodóvar, never did.