First-time filmmaker Charles Teton, 32, scores high for initiative but lower on results with “Dark Summer,” a visually accomplished but highly distanced cross-tracks love story set in Liverpool. Commercial chances look slim for the no-budgeter, though Teton clearly has the know-how and chutzpah for future projects.
A former photog, Teton brought the film in for some T40,000 ($ 60,000) after four years in production. Aspect ratio is a bold, visually refreshing 2.35.
Central characters are young black boxer Abe (Steve Ako), who works in a scrap-metal yard, and young white girl Jess (Joeline Garner-Joel), daughter of the yard’s owner. Jess moves in with Abe, who’s since been fired by her father; she later has a miscarriage, gets depressed and vanishes one day.
Using a fixed camera, and lots of fade-outs/fade-ins, Teton presents a kind of moving photo album of the young couple’s summer affair. Race (or even class) is not an issue: The pic’s metaphysical bent is more Gallic than Anglo-Saxon.
With a stronger script (dialogue is minimal and everyday), and stronger lead perfs (best described as low-key), the pic could have generated some onscreen passion to equal the bouncy, Afro-flavored pop score heard offscreen. But after the opening reels, Teton’s rigid, over-intellectualized style and reluctance to go with the flow quickly start to pall.
Apart from some indistinct dialogue passages, tech credits are fine, and Teton’s widescreen lensing of Merseyside locales is characterful.