The Kings of Summer, 2013, USA
Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) is a teenager living with his widowed dad (Nick Offerman). He finds his dad controlling, and aggravating to live with, so when he finds an empty plot of land in the forest, he decides he wants to build a house there. He convinces his best friend, Patrick (Gabriel Basso), and their eccentric classmate Biaggio (Moisés Arias) to join him. Together, the three boys build a house and runaway from home to spend the summer in the forest. At first, things are seemingly idyllic, but when Joe invites his crush, Kelly (Erin Moriarty), his relationship with Patrick becomes tense.
The film has its ups and downs. I loved the performances by the three lead teenage actors, as well as Offerman’s performance as Joe’s father. However, towards the end of the film, things get a little bit clunky and move into the realm of cliché. It’s a shame, because before this, the film feels very honest and real. What young person hasn’t daydreamed about running away from home? The final twenty minutes of the film take it from a charming coming-of-age film into something else entirely. It began to feel like a bad TV sitcom, actually.
Before the ill-advised final act, the writing was quite good. I was especially impressed with the development of the characters. You could sympathize with all of them to a certain extent, even the parents. So often, in this genre, the parents are either woefully undeveloped, or act as the villains of the story. Not the case here. Patrick’s parents are absolutely lovely to him (even if they’re a wee bit overbearing), and Joe’s dad cares for him, but feels lost when it comes to relating to him. I do wish they’d done a bit more with Biaggio – he was taking on the “lovable weirdo” trope a little too heavily for my liking.
The cinematography in the film was excellent. There were many beautiful shots of the boys and Kelly in the woods, and in the fields. And, there are quite a few laughs in the film, especially in the scenes involving Offerman and Megan Mullaly (Patrick’s mother). Both actors are excellent comics. In some respects, the film feels like the perfect “end of summer” movie, so, if you’re interested, watch it soon!
The Kings of Summer is available to watch on Netflix.