The affecting strains of romance and regret are strummed alongside the slow hum of country life in Richard Gray’s warm-hearted debut, Summer Coda. Part road movie, part romantic drama, this film follows the fate of talented violinist and erstwhile-Aussie Heidi (Rachael Taylor), as she returns from America to hitchhike her way to her estranged father’s funeral. En route she meets Michael (Alex Dimitriades), and the two unwitting kindred spirits inch closer together as they toil amongst a motley crew of fruit pickers in Michael’s idyllic orange grove.
From the lyrical title and resonant themes, through to the saturated glow of Greg De Marigny’s cinematography, there is something subtly celebratory about Summer Coda. The film’s synopsis draws an apt comparison with Bernardo Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty, and though Gray’s characters feel more understated, the two share a rich and languorous pace. At 108 minutes, this may well prove too slow for some, but the emotional payoff is both sincere and satisfying. Mining his lead actors’ easy chemistry, Gray has constructed a beautiful picture, where the rhythms of love and loss are echoed in the sweet tang of Mildura oranges.
3 ½ stars
Summer Coda is in Australian cinemas now.
Summer Coda - official trailer from Summer Coda on Vimeo.