A Dozen Summers (2015)
Director: Kenton Hall
Starring: Hero Hall, Scarlet Hall, Kenton Hall, Sarah Warren, Colin Baker, Ewen Macintosh, David Knight, Holly Jacobson, Quinton Nyrienda, Richard Stephenson Winter, Robert Bilic andTallulah Sheffield
Plot: A young boy and girl begin a magical adventure on an ordinary school day…until the Narrator is frightened off by local 12 year old twins, who hijack the movie and tell the story of their lives.
A Dozen Summers, which is released in cinemas on August 21st, follows the seemingly ordinary lives of a brother and sister as they begin a normal day of school. Unbeknownst to them, they are taking the first steps to a great adventure and, unfortunately for them, we don’t find out anymore as the Narrator gets in an argument with local 12 year old twins, Maisie and Daisy McCormack, who manage to frighten him off. They take over and instead make a movie about their lives. Kenton Hall (director/writer/producer) whose daughters star as the twins (Hero and Scarlet Hall) has most likely been dragged to almost every children’s movie of the past decade and was therefore determined to create a kid’s movie that didn’t fall into the typical tropes often seen for films aimed at this audience including either utter fantasy or downright terrifying cautionary tales. Hence, “A Dozen Summers” is a light-hearted comedy based on the everyday situations and problems we have all gone through as 12 year olds – except this time, the kids themselves tell the story.
Despite their apparently normal lives, Maisie’s and Daisy’s encounter with the “Narrator” allows them to take entire control of the movie. Thus ensues some humorous and clever editing, and complete dissolution of the fourth wall. As we zoom to the next scene of joy via a click of the fingers, the twins imaginations become realities as they indulge in power fantasies we were all guilty of as angsty tweens, with hilarious voiceovers as the twins shout to get themselves heard over a vacuum during a cleaning scene.
Now in charge of the film, the 12 year olds take us along on the story of their lives coming across sights and experiences that all children have come across: sibling rivalry; school bullies; crushes; embarrassing parent (with dad jokes galore); visits to the corner shop coupled with dodging derision from the crusty proprietor, and; staying out late with friends after school. The girls’ omnipotence within the movie brings out the natural humour from what are just ordinary occurrences as it taps directly into the 12 year old mind set – they create the dream situation of your crush actually coming over to speak to you, and watch themselves be treated as the favourite child whilst their siblings endure grueling punishment. Such scenes will not fail to make viewers of all ages smile as the thoughts and feelings we all experienced at that age are absolutely nailed. Such honest accounts of what it’s like when you’re 12 will treat adults to pleasant waves of nostalgia: I found myself laughing at the times I used to hang out at the bus station after school with all of the ’emo’ kids who I thought were so cool, but would then have to tug on my twin’s blazer sleeve, frightened that we were going to miss the metro home. These trips down memory lane are often coupled with second-hand embarrassment from your past self, which in turn makes the comedy experience even more enjoyable.
The movie also successfully takes the more serious issues related to childhood in its stride, which again is credited due to the film’s honest viewpoint of a 12 year old. All the characters come from different familial situations including separated parents, single-parent families, negligent parents, and abusive parents, whilst avoiding sentimentality by showing the range of families in a matter-of-fact fashion. Children from across the country in such similar situations will therefore not feel alone without being insulted in wishy-washy touchy-feely-ness. It also gives the opportunity for such children to laugh at the ridiculousness of their parents – many of the adult characters featured are odd and more mentally unhinged than their developing kids. Furthermore, it gives children at this awkward age validation of their feelings, something that rarely happens in real life: 12 year olds are often treated in that awful way where we expect them to behave like adults but then disregard their thoughts and opinions as “they are still only a child” and therefore wouldn’t know. This movie doesn’t do that and therefore, again, doesn’t patronise this large portion of its audience.
However, I feel that I may be the product of my infantile generation who lap up children’s films whilst in their twenties and have Disney marathons: I do love fantastical escapism so at times I found A Dozen Summers a little dull. This is partly due to the fact that Hero and Scarlet carried most of the narrative of the film, and these being early roles in their careers; they sometimes lacked the presence necessary to keep the audience engaged. But again, being young actors, such presence would come with further experience. Maisie and Daisy were also very likeable and relatable characters (credit to Hero and Scarlet), and this is a massive compliment from me as I normally hate children in films – show me a copy of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and I’d run away crying. The lapse in concentration I felt was also due to the lack of a strong plot, but then again the point of the film was to be about Maisie’s and Daisy’s life and was a deliberate move away from the fantastical film that it first presented itself as.
The child cast was also supported by a host of wonderful and colourful grown up characters, my favourites being the protagonists’ mum’s string of unusual boyfriends, the long-suffering narrator (Colin Baker), and the twins’ Dad (Kenton Hall) – not only are his Dad jokes funny, he is also grounded enough to be relatable to the adult viewers and is a mediator between adulthood and childhood, showing incredible love towards his daughters, and dashed with wry sarcasm. Again, the display of whacky characters reasserts the kids as the boss of the movie by being able to poke fun at the daft things adults do, whilst kids at that age are constantly condescended and are accused of naivety. It showcases the fact that children are people with their own thoughts and ideas which are often more grounded than that of flighty parents.
I believe children would enjoy the film as they’d be able to relate to the cavalcade of characters who you typically see in normal life; characters of whom are otherwise represented in realist child dramas like “Tracy Beaker”, “Grange Hill” and “Byker Grove”, which have always been popular because they featured the joys and problems that we all faced in our tween years. As I noted before, they helped validate all of the strange emotions we had when we were 12, and such validation is what we craved for most at that age. A Dozen Summers trumps its contemporaries in its great humour and its assurance long after the film that things will turn out all right, a message needed for all those beginning the perilous journey of coming-of-age.
I’m not that much of a sentimentalist, I have come through all of the childhood trials of the film, but as I still feel embarrassed by my less-than-successful enterprises from when I was 12, I appreciate that the movie gave me the chance to have a good giggle about such times. I believe that 12 year olds will really appreciate that it’s a film especially for them, while there are enough clever references and jokes to keep adults entertained, and the film bestows nuggets of wisdom for teens and grown-ups alike. A satisfying family British Comedy.