Summer of '42 (1971)

Summer of '42 (1971), directed by Robert Mulligan.

During summer vacation on "the Island", a teenaged boy falls in love at a distance with a married young woman, a neighbor. When her husband goes off to war he may be able to spend time with her. They are only a few years apart in age, but that is a gulf of experience and maturity. Raging hormones and earnest adoration make for pain and confusion. As they say: it's complicated.

Adolescents understand that lust and love are different things, but that doesn't mean they are easy to untangle. Our hero struggles.

A good bit: dating girls their own age, the boys try furtive groping in the dark theater while elegant Bette Davis and Paul Henreid are projected in Now, Voyager (1942).

Also the reminder of those days when a glimpse of the loved one seemed a bit of heaven.

And something you find in literature more often than in films: people sometimes have sex to assuage grief.

The coming of age story is a well-worn genre. This was the blockbuster entry of the early 1970s, earning 30x its budget. Michel Legrand's theme song became an omnipresent standard, the ambient background music of those years. The lyrics are not used in the film: "The summer smiles / The summer knows / And unashamed / She sheds her clothes..."

Jennifer O'Neill (23) is lovely as a dream. She insisted on no nudity in the film. I know her name better than her filmography, recalling her clearly only from Cronenberg's Scanners (1981). She did quite a lot of TV work.

Photographed by Robert Surtees, a soft look. The outdoor scenes seem particularly hazy and I wonder if there isn't something about Mendocino, standing in for Nantucket. Dead & Buried (1981) was also filmed there and has that same soft atmosphere.

Available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive.