As the leaves turn brown, été is the perfect flashback to a few weeks ago when the summer heat was still blazing. In his film, Gregory Oke invites us to spend time with Rhys, a young Francophile sheep shearer in rural England, as he navigates his confusing feelings and people’s expectations. The personal connection of the director to the narrative makes the film all the more compelling and the filmmaking craft turns the 19-minute run-time of été into a beautiful experience.
The story of été comes from the most authentic place, Oke’s personal experience growing up in an agricultural community in the countryside. Citing Claire Denis as an inspiration in terms of movement and music, he penned an exploration of masculinity in modern, rural Britain. His own musical preferences were chosen for the soundtrack and his more nuanced portrayal of the countryside is refreshing compared to the usual stereotypes we are subject to in all the films of the genre.
Despite the specific setting, the core of the film is extremely relatable, dealing with an internal struggle and unrequited love are universal themes. Oke also seized the perfect opportunity to satisfy his long held desire to film a pub fight!
The authenticity of the story is carried to the screen with an extremely talented crew. A film with summer vibes focused on a character dealing with inner turmoil might sound generic but été is anything but.
Oke, a cinematographer himself, and his DP shot the film beautifully. Every single frame is visually pleasing, and is a reflection of not only the summer-y atmosphere but also Rhys’ state of mind. The editing allows the audience to have the right amount of time to take in the scene and the gorgeous scenery, whilst also moving the plot forward, allowing the inner tension to build at a perfect and realistic pace.
The 19 minute run of the film gives the lead, Dan Partridge, time to build and develop his character. His subtle and layered performance feels extremely genuine and compelling to a point that with few words we understand and are moved by how he faces the fact that he is struggling against himself and how he tries to cope with his one-sided feelings.
Despite the strong visual craft and on-screen talent on show, the first thing that struck me in été was the masterfully picked soundtrack. The abundance of Jacques Dutronc with the obligatory nod to Françoise Hardy makes the film all the more enjoyable for any 60s French pop fan. The addition of Wendy Rene’s After Laughter just sealed the deal for me. Every single song hits at the right time and perfectly plays with the emotions at play.
Été premiered at the Iris Prize, went on to be selected at the 2018 Palm Springs Short Fest ahead of its online release today. Gregory Oke is part of that new wave of talented filmmakers coming out of the NYU Tisch graduate program. Now based in Berlin, he is working on writing his first feature.
This is the first time Gregory Oke appears on Short of the Week as a director, but his work as a cinematographer was already featured on the website in Charlotte Wells’ Laps, who is credited as a producer on été.