Reading the synopsis for writer / director Maryam Goormaghtigh's latest, Before Summer Ends just now has thrown me off somewhat. I have a tendency to line up movies at the Festival and promptly forget what they're about until I actually watch them. Having watched this, I had no idea it was sort of a documentary. Which makes this either a great film or me a lousy critic. Let's be honest, the latter may well be true but in this case, I'm going to plump for the former.
Arash, Ashkan and Hossein, three Iranians living in Paris are off on a road trip to the south of France before Arash returns to Iran to take up training to be a lawyer. And that's pretty much it in terms of plot and structure. We start with the boys packing their stuff up in Paris, get into a rickety car with them and travel the length of France, meeting locals, looking at girls, drinking, smoking and bantering. The joy here being twofold; one, the chemistry between the boys is wonderfully natural and easy going (regardless of how much of this is documentary and how much of it is scripted) and two, this is a story very much told by them - there is no underlying agenda here.
And from this nicely conceived setup, we get an all too unusual insight into the lives of three Iranian immigrants. The locals they meet aren't concerned with politics and, though the boys chat amiably about their country, their religion and their place in the world, it's all put together on a level that you feel you would experience if it was just chat between you and your mates out on the road.
So we get to hang out with the boys as they camp en-route to the seaside, as they experience small-town life out of the noisy claustrophobia of their apartment in Paris, as they eye up and chat up girls and generally just acting like guys in their early thirties. Some structure is given in the form of Arash's imminent return to Tehran and some late on news for Hossein but on the whole, there's no structure here as such, something that allows the boys just to chew the fat and generally charm us with their everyday concerns.
Before Summer Ends is a warm, joyous celebration of friendship and a naturally insightful view into just how much we all have in common, regardless of where we're from, what we believe or where we're going. Arash, Ashkan and Hossein are superb company throughout with their genuinely touching relationships with each other amiably teased out over a throughly enjoyable 80 minutes.