Classic Review // SUMMERTIME

David Lean's romantic drama is a surprising study of loneliness.



Katharine Hepburn stars as Jane Hudson, an American tourist loose in Venice during the summer. Seeking out adventure and the sights, while hoping to find love, or at least a summer tryst, Jane becomes the third wheel to couples throughout the Italian destination. Based on the play The Time of the Cuckoo, Summertime is a visual treat featuring beautiful cinematography of Jack Hildyard. The colors pop and add to the delectable dialogue featured in the script by H.E. Bates and director David Lean.


The film opens with Jane's arrival to the city, alone and determined, with her video camera in hand. She soon meets several groups of tourists, all on their own searches for the city's best foods and wonders. Middle-aged, Jane has a knack for self-awareness, though approaches each scenario with a sense of confidence and longing. She's never experienced the joys of romance and, being in an enchanting city like Venice, she's ready to find her own meet-cute.


Lean gives in to Jane's longing by visual tricks an, showcasing the unrequited love between couples passing, arm in arm. Togetherness seems to be the theme, as everyone around Jane is with other people, friends or lovers. In a city full of business and excitement, Jane seems to be the only one traveling alone. Hepburn's attention to the subtleties of a determined woman sell the feelings of heartbreak and desire. She tries to appear strong and firm, but the line that separates strength from weakness is clear in the tears that hide behind her eyes. Jane is a compassionate soul, seen through her dealings with a young street urchin, which makes her loneliness even more of a ploy. It's impossible to not feel for her as she seeks to find fulfillment in her life.


The film soars through the roller coaster of emotions, as it highlights the beauty of the city, most notably through shots of Hepburn's Jane reflecting alone next to the canals or at a table in a busy cafe. It's not typical for a colorful romantic picture to delve so heavily in the tropes of personal psyche, but Summertime meanders through the ebbs and flows so seamless that when the tiniest hint of a connection appears, it's the ultimate reward.


Hepburn earned one of her 12 Oscar nominations for her performance in the film, which was filmed on location in Venice. Lean was also nominated for an Academy Award for his direction. The film has lived on as a classic Technicolor drama and a significant picture in the pantheon of sweeping romances.


Directed by: David Lean

Produced by: Ilya Lopert

Written by: H.E. Bates, David Lean

Based on the play 'The Time of the Cuckoo' by Arthur Laurents

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Rossano Brazzi, Darren McGavin, Isa Miranda

© 2018 by Scottie Knollin.

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