Frida (Laia Artigas) is just 6 years old and already her life has gone wrong. Her mother has just died, preceded by her father, and the circumstances of their deaths are never made clear.
Yet the actions of those around her – especially those of a mother who won’t let her daughter near Frida’s skinned knee – suggest something familiarly dire. And the feeling those actions rouse give the film “Summer 1993” a kind of dark undercurrent uncommon in a film seen through a child’s eyes.
Clearly, though, Frida is no ordinary child. As explored by writer-director Carla Simón, a Catalan filmmaker whose movie played at February’s Spokane International Film Festival, she is full of mistrust. And she expresses that unease by appearing prenaturally calm, seemingly emotionless.
So when Frida is taken in by her uncle (her mother’s brother), his wife and their own 4-year-old daughter, she nearly sleepwalks through the experience. At times she reacts like any normal young girl, while at others she seems distant even when her new guardians treat her with kindness.
She seems to be waiting. And as she does, she pushes the limits of what would be acceptable behavior.
Which is what makes Simón’s film, which opens today at the Magic Lantern Theater, so poignant. Based on the filmmaker's own experiences, it takes us into mind of a child who has been so hurt by life that it’s questionable whether she’ll every be able to again trust anyone.
“Summer 1993,” which is in Catalan with English subtitles, was a hit at SpIFF 2018. And deservedly so. Not to give anything away, but its climax just may wrench your heart – though, if you’re open to the experience, it'll happen in a good way.