It’s a summer holiday in a sea-surrounded Dutch island. A 10-year-old boy, Sam (Sonny van Utteren), overthinking the possibility that she might someday the last surviving member of his family, is preparing for the worst. During Sam’s trial for loneliness, he encounters the manic pixie 11-yearl-old girl, Tess (Josephine Arendsen), who somehow prepares for the best. Gradually, things start to move on to quite an unpredictable direction for both prepubescent children and that titular, extraordinary summer is about to unravel.
Sam intentionally distances himself from his family and the situation allows him to do as he intends to. His mother suffers from a seemingly unending migraine; his brother breaks his ankle and blames Sam; meanwhile, his father attends to the brother and mother. Meanwhile, Tess is obsessed with a treasure-hunting couple living at her guest house. While embarking on his own trial, Sam agrees to help Tess and ends up with a harsh life lessons. Around the same time, Sam encounters an old widower, whose life is a mirror of what Sam pessimistically prepares. In a series of placid and rather mundane summer days, a child has grown a little and My Extraordinary Summer with Tess ensures that we, as observers, grasp the changes in a reflective pondering.
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Centering on prepubescent characters, My Extraordinary Summer with Tess has somehow relieved its narrative from the burden of romance (which, in usual summer fashion, ends up to sexual tension). Instead, the story focuses on the age of innocence clouded with warning thoughts and lacks of understanding about how life works. Laura van Dijk’s screenplay (adapted from Anna Woltz’s novel) transports audiences into the preadolescent’s mind, seeing the world from their perspective in a highly accessible fashion. Older audiences may understand the plot of the thoughts; while younger audiences may connect to it albeit indirectly. Steven Wouterlood in his first full-length feature brings the much needed intimacy, but, strips away the sophistication by providing mostly positive conclusions.
By delving into Sam and Tess’ ways of thinking and processing the situation, My Extraordinary Summer with Tess brings nostalgic feeling to the audiences. While not all people thinks the way Sam and Tess do, the complication they emanate due to their inexperience in life is almost universal. For a moment, as emotion flows in the story, this movie transfers you to that immature complications without judging. When emotion begins shifting and thoughts about life begin to unravel, this light, highly accessible drama with reflective theme shines through without being overly complicated.