The Summer of Sangailé is a Lithuanian drama film written and directed by Alanté Kavaité. It came out in ’15 and has the distinction of being one of those rare lesbian films written and directed by a woman. Like Saving Face. Which I reviewed just last year.
Sangailé is an older teenager suffering from some serious melancholy. She loves planes and wants nothing more than to fly but she’s given up her dream for lost on account of her problems with vertigo. She’s watching a stunt plane show when she meets Austé. An artistic young lady who likes designing clothes and photography. Their relationship quickly progresses to what an American dubbing company would refer to as “cousins.”
This film deals with a lot of serious issues like depression, self harm and struggling to find comfort in your own skin. And it deals with all of it within a romance narrative about love helping this young woman find her strength and live up to her name.
The only real issue I have with the film is that some of its moments stretch out beyond what we need for the narrative. One example is the photography scene where Sangailé poses in various outfits for Austé. Yes, there are moments that are very plot important during some of the shoots but you could also cut the amount of time spent in the montage in half and not really lose anything. Except some cute and kind of funny bits. Another example is towards the end when Sangailé starts really working towards overcoming her vertigo. There’s a really long, drug out scene where she’s just climbing ladders. I get that the whole purpose is to try and convey how difficult of an ordeal it is for her, but it’s also not the optimal way to do it.
To its credit, the film does address its various themes very well. That prior example aside. it illustrates the difficulties Sangailé faces very effectively. While also showing just how her relationship with Austé is instrumental in her journey. It’s also good at sprinkling in some lighter moments that are light enough to make for a welcome change but not so light that they detract from the gravity of the situation.
I actually really appreciate that the relationship betwixt our leads feels like a real relationship with its ups and downs. The film is also very good about illustrating that there’s some sexual tension between them long before they actually start getting physical. And the way Austé helps Sangailé cope with her issues demonstrates that she really understands her and it’s not pushy, more of a gentle nudge. And it’s a good thing their dynamic is so strong since the focus is on pair of them.
We also get to see the way both girls interact with their mothers. Briefly, but enough to give us a good idea of what their home lives are like.
Cinematography, Visuals & Effects:
The film is well shot. You can definitely tell that Kavaité had a very clear vision and knew exactly how to effectively convey it. I have to give her credit there. I’ll also give her credit for incorporating sex scenes but keeping them tasteful. It’s not something you see in many films.
Acting & Music:
Both Julija Steponaityte & Aisté Dirziute turn in strong performances. They capture the chemistry of their characters perfectly. The subtlety involved in their performances is also commendable. There are quite a few moments with little or no dialogue where their movements and expressions just convey exactly what they need to perfectly. The ending scene where they’re looking at the photographs and they get to a particular one is a shining example. Austé’s reaction when she finds out her lady love is cutting gives you another. Although that one involves more dialogue and the movements and expression are more demonstrating what’s going on in her head. The music is very atmospheric, adding a nice touch to the scenes.
This is, honestly, the best Lithuanian film I’ve ever seen. Not that that’s a great accomplishment since I haven’t seen many. But even putting that aside, it is legitimately a great film. I’m giving it a solid 8/10. I’d definitely suggest it if the premise behind it sounds interesting to you.