My notes on Cruel Summer
A (supposed) dramatisation of one of those news items guaranteed to make your blood boil, and turn every Guardian reading liberal into a rabid Daily Mail hang ‘em-and-flog ‘em advocate. It’s probably based on a several real crimes scrambled together, and is – if anything – less outrageous than some of the more highly-publicised touchstone cases of broken Britain. Nicholas (Danny Miller), a seething thug in a baseball cap, is dumped by his girlfriend for his various obvious shortcomings, and Julia (Natalie Martins) – who wants to cop him for herself – stokes his anger by making up stuff about the girl, including that she had sex with ‘that spastic kid’. Nicholas becomes obsessed with this, and recruits another layabout – the marginally more sensitive Calvin (Reece Douglas) – on his mission of revenge, claiming that the kid in questin – autustic Danny (Richard Pawulski) – is a paedophile who once raped a child. Danny is off camping on his own to get his Duke of Edinburgh award, and the trio spend the day tracking him down – with Danny’s doting Mum (Grace Dixon) believing the obvious louts are her son’s friends and giving them helpful hints – so that Nicholas, who won’t back down on his murderousness and involves his less maniac friends in what ends up as the beating to death of the harmless, trusting kid.
It contrasts the violence with Welsh countryside and is fairly reticent in the gore, though the situation is plainly upsetting enough. The script doesn’t give its main villain or its martyr much depth – Nicholas is an unredeemable cunt and Danny is an innocent – but the secondary goons get more interesting arcs, and are arguably more contemptible for being drawn into Nicholas’s rampage, enabling it (Julia actually stabs Danny) and, crucially, making no attempt to stand up to him to protect a kid who has not done any of them (even Nicholas) any harm and would barely have a concept of how to go about it. It falls into a British cycle of mean spirited jaunts in the country (Eden Lake, White Settlers, Summer Scars), which is always going to be a problematic genre in that there’s an inevitable tendency to demonise poor white working class folks (Calvin is mixed-race) though they can plead realism in that the papers are full of stories like this of ghastly things done by people like this. It’s just that it does feel like laying it on thick next to, say, The Selfish Giant. Written/directed by Phillip Escoyy and Craig Newman.