Grief has no time schedule and no plot and is thus exceedingly difficult to document accurately on film. That is why Summer 1993, a Catalan film about a six year old girl dealing with the death of her mother (implied to be AIDS) can be frustrating and rewarding.
Frida is having an idyllic summer in the countryside living with her mother’s brother, his wife and their four year old daughter except for bouts of sadness, confusion about what has happened to her mother, unanswered prayers to the Virgin Mary shrine hidden in a hallow of a tree, and painful bouts of jealousy towards her uncle’s daughter that prompts Frida to act out on the young child in rash and hurtful ways.
She is slowly becoming aware of her mother’s death, understanding it and trying to make a path for herself in the forest of her confusion.
The director, Carla Simón filmed Summer 1993 in the same village and house she grew up in. The film is haunted by that familiarity and the authentic echo of her memory. Add a bit of coaching and a child star (Laias Artegas) with an incandescent persona and Simon has all she needs to pull together the episodic and impressionistic directing into a moving sketchbook of childhood grief.
Summer 1993 feels lived in, breathed, authentic but never nostalgic. There is not a lot of drama but plenty of life on display. There is no need for a dramatic climax. The grief just ends when she is ready to cry and let go.
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