The foundations of grounded storytelling come directly from the core value of any narrative. Whether it’s a piece that’s completely non-linear, or a script that follows the common three-act structure, what’s most prominent at the forefront within any film is the execution of the progression of events. Either if it’s through setup or even a simple link between themes and scenes — focus is what generally drives the art of sophisticated storytelling. It doesn’t necessarily matter if a plot has been done to death, as long as the writer delivers a uniquely methodical perspective and angle to the material at hand. I say this purely for contextual reasons, largely in due part with how unfortunately slight Han Shuai’s Summer Blur ended up on the cutting room floor. A film with the best of its intentions in its coming of age semantics, the direction in which Summer Blur regrettably took, was one that detracted any meaning or catharsis from the story at hand.
The film opens with a rather fascinating setup; commencing with a mean-spirited punch that hits its characters with a daunting conflict. As a piece that examines the cycles of guilt and remorse against an adolescent backdrop, the premise of mixing a coming of age narrative with an element of tragedy is a promising setup up on its own. The issue all comes down to the execution post-setup. Whereas the opening ten minutes of the film offers enough insight to keep the viewer intrigued, the film barely progresses forward and instead meanders across an abundance of incomplete subplots. It’s as if the screenwriters lacked the confidence to further expand on the progression of events, where their so uncertain to the point where that majority of the created plot threads are left largely incomplete and underdeveloped
The lush colour palette and the detailed camerawork does occasionally amplify some of the more boorish scenes of meandering nonsense. Summer Blur is consistently pleasant to look at — a film that uses the most out of its eclectic toolbox of vibrant locations and props. The aesthetic is sometimes sufficient, but more often than not, it merely hinders the film’s already loose 88 minute runtime. Summer Blur consistently drags as a disappointing work of meandering melodrama, where any form or resemblance of social commentary is thrown out of the window, due to a lack of focus.
Unearned in any of its promising themes and commentary, Summer Blur is a relentlessly frustrating film that offers nothing particularly absorbing or even provoking on a thematic scale. Devoid from anything other than surface level setups, the timid imagery and approach is arguably an even more upsetting waste of talent and time. This isn’t to say Summer Blur is a complete disaster. Outside of the derivative screenplay, there’s a promising amount of substance on a technical scale. But as a drama that pulls the rug from its audience just ten minutes in, it’s already difficult enough to connect with a film that continuously hurdles over so many loose ends.
Dir: Han Shuai
Cast: Gong Beibi, Huang Tian, Zhang Xinyuan, Yan Xingyue, Luo Feiyang
Country: People’s Republic of China
Runtime: 88 minutes
Summer Blur premiered at this year’s 71st Berlinale as part of the Generation K-Plus program. The film is currently seeking international distribution.