Film

‘The Summer of Sangaile’ Makes It Look Painful, Though Beautiful, to Be Young and Gay in Lithuania

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The Summer of Sangaile, Lithuania’s first LGBT feature film, creates a world of sun-dappled sensuality that one might not initially expect to believe.

Lesbian coming-of-age tales can be sensationalistic and leering, but this film (directed by a woman, Alanté Kavaïté) casts a sensitive eye on the understated story of Sangaile (Julija Steponaityté), a shy, troubled girl who begins a relationship with the more ebullient Auste (Aisté Dirziuté).

Much of the action, such as it is, unfolds in fields, under wide-open skies. Comparisons to The Virgin Suicides are inevitable; like with Sofia Coppola’s films, the gossamer surfaces hint at darkness underneath. Sangaile self-harms, and rather than being presented as one purely dramatic element, the cutting is clearly an ongoing part of Sangaile’s life, rooted in feelings of inadequacy and depression that the film might have done more to draw out.

Sangaile generally has a passive look — when she smiles at Auste, it’s an accomplishment. The differences between the two girls are illustrated in their bedrooms. Sangaile’s is minimalist, wood-toned and nearly empty, while Auste’s is cluttered with clothing and random objects (including a large shell whose vulval imagery might be just a touch obvious). She’s lively, inviting Sangaile out and encouraging her to pursue her interest in stunt planes, a quirky-seeming detail that soon becomes an effective illustration of Sangaile’s desire for confidence and escape. The aviation theme recurs in frequent bird’s-eye views that sweep over the small yet affecting story. “Thanks for being you,” Sangaile says to Auste at one point. It’s a simple statement, maybe a little sentimental, but in this tale of young love, it works.

The Summer of Sangaile

Directed by Alanté Kavaïté

Strand Releasing

Opens November 20, IFC Center