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  That Summer! Learn To Swim, Young Man, Learn To Swim
Year: 1979
Director: Harley Cokeliss
Stars: Ray Winstone, Julie Shipley, Tony London, Emily Moore, Jon Morrison, Andrew Byatt, Ewan Stewart, David Daker, Jo Rowbottom, John Judd, John Junkin, Stephanie Cole, Nicholas Donnelly, John Fowler, Colin Higgins, Ben Howard, Michael J. Jackson
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Steve Brody (Ray Winstone) was in borstal for a while, where it became clear to the sport instructor that he had a talent for swimming, and could possibly compete on a professional level. On being told this, Steve decided he liked the idea and an upcoming contest in Torquay sounded ideal for him, so once released and pausing briefly to return to his London home, he heads over to the South West, planning to get a job for the summer and win that competition. Meanwhile, three other young people want to visit the coast for the season, butcher's son Jimmy (Tony London) who drives his own customised car down there, and best friends Angie (Julie Shipley) and Carol (Emily Moore)...

The girls are from Leeds where they have factory jobs, so right away you can see this was a tale of working class life circa the late seventies on the cards. Some regarded this as a sequel to Winstone's breakthrough role in Scum, both the television and film versions, but the two characters he played may have attended a borstal, though they weren't the same people. In spite of that, there was a definite feel of a television play adapted for the big screen to That Summer! even though it was an original script from Tony Attard and Jane Prager being used. That was likely down to the less than cinematic final results.

You could imagine settling down on a Wednesday evening in 1979 and switching on BBC1 to take in the latest Play for Today and it being very similar to this, as director Harley Cokeliss made very little effort to capitalise on the cinematic medium. Then again, by keeping it almost mundanely observational he generated a fairly palatable prospect, deliberately trying to appeal to the nation's youth to have them recognise the problems and benefits of the lifestyle of Steve and the others. To add to that ambience, there were a host of hits on the soundtrack, another aspect which set this precisely in the time it was filmed, so you'd hear punk and new wave and even disco of 1978, the year it was shot.

Naturally, when watched now it has the potential to elicit huge waves of nostalgia breaking over those who were around at the time, as its low level drama meanders from scenes of the four leads working their menial jobs then breaking out of the dull and prosaic to have fun on their time off. Jimmy gets a position on the beach renting floats which is where he meets Steve, who is training and after an initial wariness they become friends. The same can be said of when they meet Angie and Carol, the former being more forthright than her doubt-plagued pal, who are now chambermaids in the poshest hotel in Torquay (Fawlty Towers goes unmentioned). To add a note of menace, there are also three Scottish lads who are entering the contest.

I don't know if the writers had a bad experience with Scots, but this trio of heavies are little better than thugs, drinking, pill-popping, yelling, sexually harrassing, itching for a fight, preferably with Steve, and on the whole not exactly a credit to their nation. As the villains we want to see them get their comeuppance, unless you are Scottish in which case you wanted to see one of your countrymen who was actually nice since the movie painted a pretty poor picture of them; they don't even redeem themselves come the end. That finale was the swimming competition which was the strongest indication of Cokeliss' apprenticeship, as he had made Children's Film Foundation entry The Glitterball which went down very well wth the kids, and the denouement here, after virginities lost and people beaten up (in a model village), was noticeably cosy in that vein. Someone even falls in the water, a sure sign of the C.F.F. influence. But That Summer! didn't appear to have any other ambitions than to entertain its contemporary audience with a picture of what their lives were like. Music by Ray Russell.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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