This is my current project and the last film I will be doing as a student.
‘Poppies in the summer’is a bitersweet story about missed chances and new beginnings. The story of the film revolves around Alysa, a young immigrant who finds herself confined in a family house, taking care of a fragile old lady.
Neglected by her employers and trapped within a cold environment, she escapes her dull reality within the memories of the old lady -and through her own imagination. Gradually she realises the old lady is harbouring a secret that has affected her life and the relationship with her children for a long time.
The weird thing about this film is that there are 3 realities within the story, but only two appear in the screen. The first reality is Alysa’s daily life in the house: She is bored out of her mind, lonely and in need of communication. The second reality is the old lady’s- whose name is Grace- memories. Grace is in a fragile state of mind, unable to distinguish between past and present. Her mind keeps returning to her happiest memories, before she made a choice that determined the rest of her life. Her memories revolve around a holiday on the seaside with a girl named Irena ( for now). The third reality is Alysa’s version of Grace’s memories; This reality, along with the first one are the ones that can be seen on the screen. This is not as arbitrary as it seems; Alysa listens to Grace talking about her memories as if she is living them at the moment. She gets what Grace is talking about and creates a mental image of what she hears. However, oblivious as she is to British culture and having only seen part of London when she first came to the house, she is unable to picture the British countryside and customs as they are. What she is is a version that is close to the truth but slightly altered by her own experience. Also, Alysa sees what she wants to see. A beautiful landscape that she wishes to explore, that comes in sharp contrast with the soulless interiors she inhabits at the moment.
The Characters :
Alysa is in her early twenties.She is educated, young, optimistic and ambitious. She arrived to the UK as an illegal immigrant after a dangerous journey and she felt like she finally had a chance to start a new life when she was employed by Jane. However, she is not allowed to leave the house, Jane and Katie ignore her and even though Jane has promised to sort out her visa so that she can stay in the country she keeps postponing it. In addition, she is paid almost nothing . Alysa knows that she is lucky to have a roof over her head but she can’t help but dream that one day she will have the opportunity to move on and chase a truly better future, where she will not be imprisoned within four walls.
Alysa spends her days in a house where she is treated as if she is invisible; She doesn’t speak English well either and this augments the communication problem. She wants to leave, but she knows that this is the only place where she can be safe. She only knows the country that she has arrived to through TV programs. She is slowly getting more and more resigned to her fate and doesn’t even try much to communicate any more; She often speaks out her thoughts in Ukrainian and only responds in English when she has to.
Grace is the ‘old lady’of the story. She is a woman who had always been ahead of her time; She is well educated and used to be an academic and a poet . In her youth she loved to travel and has a large collection of items that she has collected during her travels in her bedroom. She used to be a very energetic person in her youth, restless and always looking for new experiences. Grace was a strong woman, who didn’t want to be dependent on men. She formed a couple of short-lived relationships before getting married to Jane’s father. Soon after her marriage, Grace had Jane and settled down to the role of housewife for a while, as her husband suggested and her parents demanded.
Slowly Grace began to adapt to her new role, suppressing a great part of her personality in the process. She did like her husband, and she did love her daughter but she had not imagined that married life would be so constricting. Her relationship with her husband soon grew cold; She was never madly in love with him, but she came to love him as a person and decided to settle down with him. On the other hand, he had married an unconventional, adventurous woman and he ended up with a disillusioned housewife. At that point Grace met Irena, an immigrant girl from Russia and began to rediscover herself. Grace and Irena decided to go on a trip together in Southend for a few days and Grace was faced with a dilemma that marked the rest of her life.
At the moment, Grace seems unresponsive to Jane’s and Katie’s approaches. She stays in her room all day long and seems lost within her own thoughts. She is a shadow of her former self and she opts to shield herself from the world and find refuge only in her memories. Some time after the arrival of Alysa she begins talking to her as if she was Irena, thus reliving some of her memories in Southend.
Jane is Grace’s daughter and Katie’s mother. She comes across as a hard woman initially. She is often away from home due to her work and interacts almost exclusively with Katie within the house. As a single woman she is trying to do her best to provide for Katie and to manage her household efficiently. She never treats Alysa as a member of the household, avoiding her in every chance. She doesn’t pay her enough and keeps postponing issuing her a visa since she doesn’t want to lose a good deal. However, she provides for her and makes sure she lives in decent conditions.
Jane is so focused on caring for her family that she does not hesitate to use other people to achieve her goals. She presents a hard face to the world in order to conceal her own insecurities. As Alysa says ‘Things people don’t want to see, they keep them locked away’. This applies to Jane’s relationship with her; Jane knows she is exploiting Alysa so she prefers to avoid her out of guilt. Her relationship with her mother is another thing that troubles her. She appears to have no time for Grace, leaving her care entirely up to Alysa. She rarely visits her even though she makes sure that her health is fine and that she is constantly being looked after. She treats Grace as a sick patient, having minimum contact with her but making sure she is trying her best to give her the quality of life that she deserves. Jane, who believes that her mother is completely unresponsive to the world, is startled when she discovers that she seems to respond to the presence of Alysa. She starts questioning her own relationship with her mother and realizes she never really had a real connection with her. Jane shows her softer, more playful side to Katie; She subconsciously focuses her efforts in her relationship with her daughter in order to make up for the lack of understanding between her and Grace.
Katie is Jane’s daughter; a girl on her late teens, not far from Alysa’s age. She is outgoing, energetic and enthusiastic. She is often seen with her friends or about to go out and meet them. She ignores Alysa as much as Jane does; As a teenager she is oblivious to the problem’s of the world and focuses solely on her own. She has a good relationship with her mother and regards her more as a friend. She loves her grandmother but never had a true relationship with her since she met her in her later years, when she was already a shadow of her former self.
Below is some concept art that I did when I was thinking about the mood of the film. A bittersweet yet colourful story. The visual aspect of it will be more sweet than bitter.