Film Review: ‘My Extraordinary Summer With Tess’

Variety | 2/13/2019 | Alissa Simon
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Winner of a special mention from the Berlinale Generation KPlus’ adult jury, the family-friendly, light drama “My Extraordinary Summer With Tess” is straightforward youth cinema with surprising emotional depth. Based on a prize-winning novel by Anna Woltz, a beloved Dutch writer of work for young readers, it explores family relationships and emphasizes the importance of human connection. Fronted by two charismatic tween performers, the title marks the feature debut of Dutch helmer Steven Wouterlood, who already holds an international Emmy Kids Award. The New York Intl. Children’s Film Festival will host the film’s international premiere at the end of February.

The story unfolds from the perspective of sensitive 10-year-old Sam (Sonny van Utteren, winning in his first film role) whose voiceover musings not only provide the narrative’s momentum and glue but also articulate the film’s ultimate lessons. Sam, his parents (Tjebbo Gerritsma, Suzan Boogaerdt) and older brother Jorre (Julian Ras) are on a week’s vacation on a Dutch island, but things are hardly idyllic. Jorre breaks his ankle; his mom is plagued by migraines; and Sam, a morbidly imaginative kid, embarks on a course of “aloneness training” to be prepared in case everyone he cares about dies before him. But things change when Sam is swept off his feet by the cyclonic personality of 11-year-old Tess (Josephine Arendsen), the daughter of staunchly feminist single mother Ida (Jennifer Hoffman), one of the island’s medics.

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