Director: Alantė Kavaitė
The Summer of Sangailė is the final entry in my three-film diversion focusing on LGBT+ stories in world cinema. Made to celebrate Moonlight‘s win for Best Picture at the Oscars in February, the other entries in this mini-series are Croatia’s Fine Dead Girls and Nepal’s Soongava.
Sangailė is an isolated teenager fascinated by planes and flying. She dreams of becoming a stunt pilot, but struggles with anxiety and depression. At a local airshow she meets Austė, an outgoing and artistic girl with whom she quickly forms a romantic relationship. Over the film, Austė tries to boost Sangailė’s confidence and help her follow her dreams.
The storytelling is non-verbal, for the most part. Every shot and edit, every costume and prop, gives an insight into a character’s thoughts and feelings, so dialogue is mostly unnecessary. The director has encouraged highly expressive physical performances from the lead actresses – understanding that a fleeting glance or a slumped shoulder can be worth a thousand words. This is a sharp contrast from Soongava, which featured a relationship built more by the screenplay than the mise-en-scène. So while Soongava felt like a soap-opera at times, the relationship between Sangailė and Austė feels totally convincing and natural.
Setting aside character and plot, The Summer of Sangailė is beautiful to see and hear. The visuals capture the sense of an idyllic, never-ending summer in the Lithuanian countryside: from glorious sunny days at the airshow, to long, warm nights by the lake. The scenes of the stunt planes soaring and plummeting, in particular, showcase some impressive aerial photography. The music and sound effects are sparse but effective, adding a lot of emotional weight to some key scenes.
The Summer of Sangailė depicts a fleeting summer romance between two likable characters, with a deliberate and enchanting sense of nostalgia. It’s a well-rounded coming-of-age story, highlighting both the euphoric highs and crushing lows of that awkward and frightening space between childhood and adulthood. It’s short, sweet, and highly recommended.