“Year Without a Summer” reps a major technical advance on distaff Malay helmer Tan Chui-mui’s glitchy debut, “Love Conquers All,” but this yarn about the past and present friendship of two boys from a fishing community feels much longer than its running time, despite odd moments of intrigue. Artsy trappings will steer the pic to a steady stream of fests, but commercial prospects appear minimal.
Emerging from the ocean at dusk like some mythic creature, successful musician Azam (Nam Ron) returns to his coastal village and reconnects with childhood friend Ali (Azman Hassan). With Ali’s spirited wife, Minah (Mislina Mustaffa), in tow, the three embark on a lengthy nighttime fishing expedition and tiptoe around the reasons for Azam’s long absence. Azam’s sudden disappearance underwater triggers a transition back to childhood days, with Azam shown as a restless lad who wants to leave the sticks for Kuala Lumpur. Attractively lensed flashbacks at least offer slightly more narrative thrust than the padded-out contempo scenes. However, ambitions for poetic discourse on memory, friendship and whether or not this is all a dream drift away in the thin screenplay’s many longueurs.