Good times and bad times pass with lackadaisical charm in the Taiwanese coming-of-ager “Summer’s Tail.” Perfectly pitched for mature-minded teens with adolescent tribulations on their mind, this effort may also seduce older auds. Pic duplicates the easygoing atmosphere of previous Taiwanese films about drifting youth, from 2004’s “Holiday Dreaming” all the way back to Hou Hsiao Hsien’s seminal “The Boys of Fengkuei” (1983). Fests will seek this out, but pic may find itself in kiddie sidebars or the main lineup, according to programmer’s taste. Taiwanese release is set for November, and youthful energy also may draw commercial slots around Asia.
Yvette (Enno) is a literally fainthearted schoolgirl songster whose poetic soul makes her the apple of her mother’s eye and popular throughout the student body. Overexerting herself while performing at a school concert, Yvette collapses and is sent to the sick bay. Reviving with best friend Wendy (Hannah Han Lin) by her side, she witnesses the arrival of fellow student Jimmy (Bryant Chang, “Eternal Summer”), who’s injured his hand, and his beloved, schoolteacher Miss Xiu (Ke Huanju).
The comely teacher has to end her affair with Jimmy or lose her job. Miss Xiu is prepared to move on, but the smitten schoolboy is going through the emotional ringer. All this makes Jimmy oblivious to the interest of girls his own age. Wendy is attracted to the lovestruck boy, but will clearly go with soccer-obsessed Japanese exchange student Akira (Dean Fujioka) if he makes the first move.
With Yvette bouncing back from her fainting spell and offering the occasional song, yarn lazily drifts along. But as pic looks set to run out of puff after the first hour, a subplot about an urchin tyke stealing sandwiches from the gang’s cafe hangout comes to the fore. Script skews older in the pic’s last third, as the urchin’s dysfunctional background is revealed, but will still sit comfortably with the 14-plus crowd.
Helming has a breezy quality that encourages auds to match its relaxed mood, but the gentle shift in tone to stronger drama is adroitly executed.
Quality lensing by Lin Chengying, who also shot helmer’s previous films “Blue Cha Cha” (2005) and “Somewhere Over the Dreamland” (2002), broadens pic’s tone and enhances helmer’s inventive but unobtrusive direction.
Ensemble of teen performers are endearing, with sweet-smiling Enno shining as the talented songstress. Enno’s tunes are nothing special in themselves, but in tandem with the waif’s ingratiating perf, the acoustic compositions emit a beguiling charm. Tech credits are solid.
Weak-punning English title refers to Enno’s pet cat, Summer.