"a great comedy for children and adults alike but is at its best when speaking honestly to its target young audience"

It’s never easy being a kid, nor is it easy being a teen. Being stuck in the middle of those phases is equally confusing, as actor Kenton Hall’s (Les Miserables, Muppets Most Wanted) feature length directorial debut reminds us. A Dozen Summers, also written by and starring Hall, is a wry and witty look at what happens when you let a couple of cynical 12-year-olds take the reins in a movie about their lives. Gently insightful and mercifully never patronising, it not only provides entertainment for its young target audience but for the older (albeit hardly much wiser) generations too.

The story begins in a way that makes you brace yourself for a saccharine plot, as an enthusiastic voiceover by ex-Doctor Who star Colin Baker prepares you for a seemingly sweet story about a mother dropping off her two small children at school. However, both the narrator and the film find themselves hijacked when they meet 12-year-old twins Daisy and Maisie (played by Hero Hall and Scarlet Hall, respectively). They decide that they should instead make this film about their lives, adding some surreal and fantastical sequences along the way to liven it up. Along the way we see their relationships with divorced parents - challenging their wearied Irish father (Kenton Hall) and humouring their flighty actress mother (Sarah Warren) - whilst all the while coping with schoolyard bullies, unrequited crushes and the complex politics of having too many school kids in a corner shop.

A Dozen Summers provides a lot of natural charm by involving some younger actors who are very new to the screen. Lines might occasionally be shaky but the natural charisma of many of the fledgling stars gives it the kind of realism and charm that you’d recognise from classics such as Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl. Just as that film featured a real stand out performance from a previously unknown John Gordon Sinclair, so this movie has its highlight in Hero and Scarlet Hall, who both carry the film effortlessly. As daughters of the director, their ease with their on- and off-screen father comes across perfectly and hold their own in every scene.

It’s important that a film with a generally younger target audience does provide effective representatives for the age group on-screen. Twins Daisy and Maisie are excellent role models to see; never perfectly behaved but confident in themselves and their opinions, not to mention already armed with an endearingly weary attitude of the ridiculous world of adults. Put it this way, you’d never see them play the damsels in distress in a film! Their decisive attitude keeps it moving along briskly as they frequently tinker with the editing and content as the audience watch intently.

A lot of the comedy derives from the hopeless ineptitude of the adults in relating to the younger generation, but this is executed in a good spirited way, meaning that even as an older watcher it’s easy to sympathise with these generational misunderstandings on all sides. Additionally, as a smaller independent film it is inventive in the techniques used and what is actually a fairly simple concept becomes more and more engaging as the girls’ vision develops.

A Dozen Summers is a great comedy for children and adults alike but is at its best when speaking honestly to its youthful target audience. Featuring fantastic role models, a witty script and brilliantly natural performances, the film is understanding without ever being condescending. Not only that, but its self-referential narrative carries the plot with inventively surreal moments, making A Dozen Summers a captivating watch.