We're often inundated with depictions of extraordinary children on the big screen, or alternatively ordinary young ones that crazy stuff simply happens to. The Goonies, Harry Potter, The Parent Trap, Spy Kids, even Charlie And The Chocolate Factory; there's never been any shortage of such a movie in the cinema. But what about a feature-length film that centres around a couple of 12-year-olds with no magical powers or adventures to set off on?
Written and directed by Kenton Hall, independently made film A Dozen Summers certainly fills that void, as it follows schoolgirls Maisie and Daisy McCormack (Hall's real-life twin daughters Scarlet and Hero), who interrupt an unnamed narrator's tale just as he was beginning to set up a completely different story about two completely different children, in order to make a film about their own lives instead.
We see them juggling typically boring school days, hanging with their friends, their first romances and sticking up to the school bully, while also dealing with their overly-involved but well-meaning father Henry (played by Hall) and their kooky, model mother Jacqueline (Sarah Warren) as the girls manipulate the film's timeline with jump-cuts and flashbacks, while also spicing it up with the occasional far-fetched dream-like sequence at the click of their fingers. It's self-referentiality when it comes to the plot is just another vehicle that proves its intelligence. Unlike say, House Of Cards, where Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood addresses the audience directly, Maisie and Daisy show their world through talking to an unseen camera and crew, allowing you to still believe you're watching a movie but simultaneously making you feel more involved than if you were simply watching it.
Its easy-to-follow plot will resonate well with children all over the UK, but perhaps even more effectively with those viewers that are a little older, and who did in fact spent their evenings after school buying sweets from the corner shop that only allows three students in at a time or watching telly in their bedrooms while eating a Pot Noodle, rather than playing the latest games on their iPad or taking an Instagram selfie.
There's no real structure to the film however, so if, like me, you're more accustomed to watching an thrilling drama or action-packed superhero movie, you might find yourself wanting a little more even though there's no denying how genuinely funny it can be along the way. Some lines will make you laugh out loud even if you're 15 years older than the film's target audience, look out for the knowing-gags about particular genre films including vampire and werewolf relationships, detective dramas and sickly-sweet romances.
The film is told completely through the perspective of two 12-year-old girls and therefore it would seem fair to one assume that it could only really appeal to those in the same demographic. However, this theory doesn't seem fair on seeing how willingly Hall offers up jokes that only an adult would fully understand. Gags that touch upon things such as menstruation and references to films as diverse as The Grudge or Seventh Seal. A Dozen Summers is so obviously Hall's interpretation of how he sees his daughters through his eyes rather than their straight version of themselves and its this off-kilter portrayal that makes the film as different and as observational witty as it is.
While Scarlet and Hero do incredibly well delivering the dry, mockumentary style gags, their on-screen presence isn't completely consistent throughout and you will find yourself more engaged at certain times than others as their ability to really carry the film ebbs and flows throughout the entire piece. Such presence is evidently honed through practice though and it's difficult to pillory them for the odd duff moment when, in some scenes, they completely crack you up with their older-than-their-years deadpan delivery of some of the movie's best matter-of-fact one-liners.
As expected with a cast so clearly varying in experience levels consisting mainly of children, unfortunately, other actors in the movie are not so talented as Scarlet and Hero and occasionally distract you from the story with their wooden and shy performances. But their earnestness in trying benefits the film in a different way as it adds to the genuineness and charm of the whole thing and you can't help but feel a sense of warmth towards the whole cast. All Stars' Holly Jacobson is one of the standout young performers of the film however, who channels bully Jennifer with a caricature-like venom that could rival Regina George from Mean Girls.
There's no denying that A Dozen Summers' humour borders on silly at times but given that it's predominantly a children's film, this makes perfect sense. While the well-written jokes can be appreciated by the older watchers, the physical comedy, more similar to Tracy Beaker than The Office, is injected for the sake of the more innocent and perhaps more easily-amused viewer. The heart that Hall put into making the picture constantly permeates the screen; an understandable result from a film-making concoction of a smallish budget, an inevitably smaller team, a script close to your heart and using your own family as not only the basis of the story, but the stars as well.
A Dozen Summers will be released in selected cinemas on 21 August.