Set in the Pampas of Argentina, Julia Solomonoff’s The Last Summer of La Boyita (2009) is a quirky rites of passage drama focusing upon two children on the cusp of adolescence. A precocious child and tomboy, Jorgelina (Guadalupe Alonso) adores her older sister and they play games and exchange confidences in La Boyita, their family’s small caravan.
When Luciana (Maria Clara Merendino) enters puberty, she suddenly doesn’t want her little sister tagging along any more. Instead, she craves privacy, the attention of boys and prefers to hang out with her girlfriends. Feeling hurt and rejected, Jorgelina decides to spend her summer holidays with her father (Gabo Correa) on his cattle farm. Here she embarks on an intense friendship with the farm hand’s shy son, Mario (Nicolas Treise).
Mario has abandoned school to help his parents on the ranch where he is expected to undertake an adult’s work, from carving up carcasses to subduing a stallion. He is also an aspiring jockey and is preparing for his first race. The two children read books together and explore the local countryside on horseback but Mario always refuses to join Jorgelina for a swim. He harbours a terrible secret that she unwittingly discovers. Pushing her friend for answers, Jorgelina enlists the help of her doctor father but this sets off a chain of events that threaten to destroy Mario’s already fragile sense of identity and damage his familial ties.
The Last Summer of La Boyita is lavishly shot and beautifully acted. Despite running at just 90 minutes, it’s undeniably a slow-burner, with both the deliberately understated emotions of the child characters and slowly unravelling plot part of the film’s charm. It contains some stunning vistas, the riding scenes are particularly memorable and the young cast carrying the film are terrific.
A low-key drama about extraordinary circumstances, Solomonoff’s The Last Summer of La Boyita manages to pack a punch, its central motif of the empowering nature of childhood friendship unexpectedly moving.