CRUEL SUMMER (2016)
Cruel Summer is a 2016 dramatic thriller, written as a reflection of some horrifying events that took place in the UK in preceding years. The events involved attacks on teenagers with Autism and Asperger’s. Some cases resulted in physical assaults and sadly in another, murder.
Young Autism sufferer Danny enjoys the serenity and solitude of camping. That’s all about to change when enraged teens Nicholas, Calvin and Julia find him, each with their own agenda for wanting to see Danny suffer.
Featuring a bold young cast , Cruel Summer is a film that vaguely retells details of cases of actual events, loaded into one storyline.
In this instance we meet Danny , played amazingly well by Richard Pawulski (a fresh face from the UK and quite endearing in the lead role). Danny is sweet, gentle, and Autistic. His parents (played by Gary Knowles and Grace Dixon) are reluctant to give him independence, but desperate for their son to lead as normal a life as possible.
Pawulski brilliantly shows the innocence of Danny. We watch his sometimes childlike antics and specific quirks as he struggles day to day, but also adore his eagerness to show he is able to function independently. Danny’s parents agree to allow him to visit some local woodlands and camp overnight alone in them and sadly, it is in this desire for independence that Danny meets his demise.
We also meet Nicholas (played by UK soap star Danny Miller), an aggressively over the top post teen, who is quick to anger and easily swayed by a foolishly deceitful friend called Julia (Played by Natalie Martins as some Geordie Shore wannabe chav). The two fabricate a paedophilic story to rope in their more empathetic and unwilling friend Calvin (played by Reece Douglas) , who is unaware of what the duo are planning. Miller, Martin and Douglas each add their own worth to the film.
Julia lies to Nicholas regarding a girl he’s interested in and a liaison with Danny (which is fabricated to fulfil her own annoyance at Nicholas not falling for her).
This one lie creates a spiral into the sickeningly evil moments that take place later and even sadder, Danny’s death.
In Cruel Summer writer and directors Phillip Escott and Craig Newman craft a plot that emulates the sickening feeling one should have for these callous acts. You can like this film in the conventional sense, but you can admire the emotionally driven storyline, the clear concise well directed film and the carefully selected cast. All aspects of this film provide a somewhat reflective interpretation of true events, without over doing the emotional depth.
Personally….. the climax of when Danny’s parents arrive to collect him from his short trip are the toughest few minutes. You know what they will find once he doesn’t arrive to meet them and your heart aches over the thought. I was glad that Escott and Newman took the less is more approach with that moment.