Anyone who recalls misspent summers of youth will understand well how a single day can echo down the years. Like the similarly resonant stories of Rob Reiner's Stand by Me, or much of Shane Meadows work, Summer Scars captures fragile youth at a turning point, with cracks opening up to the darker adult world.

Six friends bunk off school to spend the day in the woods. Armed with a few cans of beer and some very inadequate barbeque skills, they are free to do just what 14-year-olds do best: show off, swear, fight and spend the day just hanging out together. The first reel of Julian Richards low budget drama is spent solely in the company of these six. Like most real kids they are certainly no angels, and might qualify as hoodies in a cruder film.

Riding a stolen moped around the bumpy woodland paths, two of the gang collide with a lone adult, Peter (Howarth). They fear the worst, and leg it from the scene, but Peter is unharmed and soon emerges to join the group. Attention turns to this unknown quantity, and the focus of the group shifts. Peter seems to be down with the kids, sympathetic, and is soon leading the gang into new scrapes.

But Peter can not be pinned down. One minute he is offering life lessons to his young charges, the next he seems more sinister, playing divide and conquer, and easily exploiting tensions by turning friends against one another. As the afternoon wears on, events take worrying turns, and it appears Peters agenda may be closing in on the gang.

This low-budget indie thriller makes all the right moves with an engagingly real cast of youngsters. Never patronising and edgy throughout, it is a heartfelt picture of fragile adolescent faiths.


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