Two Summers is a Belgian crime drama on Netflix about a long-time group of friends who are having a reunion on a private island in the Azors. It may sound like The Big Chill, but it’s not. In the opening scene, as he is preparing to leave for the island, Peter Van Gael (Tom Vermeir) receives a video (timestamped 1992) showing the gang rape of a young woman who is passed out. Along with the video is blackmail threat. As the story in Episode 1 unfolds we learn that the vacationers are nearly the same group that partied together at a vacation home 30 years prior, when the rape was committed. Once on the island, Peter shares the video and blackmail threat with the other men that were involved with the rape, in an effort to figure out who is extorting them. As the adults look back on past misdeeds, old patterns around gender and bullying resurface, and what was supposed to be a fun getaway becomes a reckoning.
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A giant cast
The cast of Two Summers is large, and the relationships among the characters are complicated. Peter Van Gael is married to Romée Tanesy (An Miller), and the group is gathering to celebrate her 50th birthday. She and Peter are also hosting the event and picking up the tab as they are now mega-rich Silicon Valley entreprenuers. Didier Verpoorten (Herwig Ilegems), is married to Sofie Geboers (Inge Paulussen). Luk Van Gael (Kevin Janssens) is Peter’s brother and the ex-husband of Saskia Van Dessel (Ruth Becquart). Stef Van Gompel aka “Mowgli” (Koen De Bouw) isn’t related to or formerly married to anyone in the group but in his youth, he was in love with Saskia. Finally, there is Lia Donkers (Sanne-Samina Hanssen) who is Luk’s girlfriend and the one present-day character who is not from the old group but is apparently the yoga instructor to almost everyone. Then, of course you have the 1992 versions of everyone but Lia. Obviously, the connections between the characters lead to some juicy sub-plots as well as contributing to the central mystery.
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If you pay close attention to the opening montage it will make it much easier to connect the adults to their younger selves. I didn’t, and spent some mental energy making those connections, which I found kind of fun, but irritated other viewers. The casting is excellent though, as are the performances, which make the flashbacks believable. The personalities of younger/older characters are much the same, as are the roles they play within the group. Bullies remain bullies, victims remain victims, the insecure remain insecure, and the delusional remain delusional. There are surprising revelations throughout which contribute to the drama and further reinforce the personality profiles of the characters.
Our take on Two Summers
Two Summers is well-written treatise on group dynamics, criminal behavior by “otherwise decent” chaps, and how the passage of time sheds a bald light on the past. It can be kind of a difficult, although thought-provoking watch. And I should note that the very end ticked me off. But I binged it, and I can recommend it. If you like a cerebral, twisty crime story that depicts what happens when pre-“Me Too” behavior is finally seen for what it is, then Two Summers is for you.
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