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Summer of '04 (DVD Review)

8 Jun, 2008 By: Laura Tiffany

Summer of 04

Street 6/10/08
Koch Lorber
$26.98 DVD
Not rated.
In German with English subtitles.
Stars Martina Gedeck, Peter Davor, Lucas Kotaranin, Svea Lohde, Robert Seeliger.

You know you've stepped into a European film when a 12-year-old can realistically compete with a 40-year-old woman for the affections of a man, and the triangle is treated with just the right amount of wary danger and romantic sensitivity.

And though, toward the end, it appears the film falls into the usually American, Puritan trap of punishing the tween for wanting to explore her sensuality too soon, a quick twist at the end renders the film appropriately European (German, to be specific) again.

A family — man, woman and 15-year-old son — vacation in a country home, and they've brought along the boy's young girlfriend, Livia. One day the boy comes home alone, having left Livia sailing with another man, the thirtysomething Bill. The mother, Miriam, expresses a natural concern at this unusual friendship, but finds herself drawn to Bill as well.

Director Stefan Krohmer captures the mood of a holiday perfectly. He takes the time to linger on the rustling trees, a car traveling down a dusty road, a languid meal out of doors, the danger and exhilaration of sailing, and the beauty of the natural soundscape. Summer of '04 is undeniably gorgeous, helped along by its passel of naturally attractive actors, all so comfortable in their skin and in these low-key roles, from the willowy Svea Lohde as the preternaturally mature Livia, and Martina Gedeck (The Lives of Others) as the vibrant fortysomething Miriam, to the kindly, handsome Peter Davor as Miriam's husband and Robert Seeliger as the man who enraptures both Livia and Miriam.

This is one of those pictures that leads you lazily to the edge of your seat several times, waiting for something inevitably awful to happen. And happen, it does. The ending isn't terribly satisfying, with the aforementioned twist unnecessarily martyring one of the characters. But the journey, the gorgeousness, and the mostly likeable characters draw you into this unusual love triangle, even if you wish it had ended differently.

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