Brett Story’s The Hottest August is an absorbing social study about hopes, dreams and our current climate. It’s 2017, an abnormally hot summer and the year of a partial lunar eclipse.
Story talks to New York locals: there is a sense of uncertainty and instability in the air. A fantastic free-form jazz soundtrack undulates over the images of people going about their summer, making the mundane seem strange and alien. Two men contort themselves to squeeze out of a window-frame and offer their thoughts on the economy and immigration. A man chases an errant sun umbrella across the beach; an afronaut walks the streets of New York, solving problems by conceptually approaching the situation from the future.
It’s as if The Hottest August is trying to describe human existence to an audience from the future. Things have never been like this, exclaim the film’s interviewees. Retired policemen praise the changes brought by gentrification. On the news, the car ploughs into the protestors at Charlottesville.
The skies that Story captures are magnificent and dramatic, deep grey storm clouds against a shimmering amber sky. It is a wakeup call.