There’s a real tinge of the wonderful Stand By Me to the excellent The Kings Of Summer. Both films centre on maturing teenagers trying to find their place in the world (or at least thinking they know where that place isn’t), and both films strike emotional chords regularly, without ever being too cloying about their storytelling.
The Kings Of Summer has a smaller ensemble to work with, and is – comparisons acknowledged – a piece very much with its own identity. At the centre is Nick Robinson’s Joe, who’s struggling to free himself from the control of his father. But this isn’t a traditional nasty father story, rather that his dad, played by the brilliant Nick Offerman, has troubles and tragedies of his own, that he tries to make sense off with the help of his daughter, played by Community‘s Alison Brie. The loss of Joe’s mother is felt by them all, and it lends each member of the family a resonance that the film takes time to explore.
To find solace and freedom, with the help of his friend Patrick, Joe decides to spend one summer in a wooden house that the pair, along with the excellent Moises Arias, put together. It’s an idyllic idea, albeit one that – for each of the trio – comes with some of the similar baggage that led them to their break for freedom in the first place.
To a degree, The Kings Of Summer is the kind of coming of age story that’s been told time and time again, yet it’s to the credit of director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and writer Chris Galletta that this film’s quite so individual. It’s a qualified rebellion that’s at the heart of the film, one tinged with humour, and moments of real impact. It’s strongly played by its cast too, but it’s the aforementioned Offerman who really emerges as the standout. Arriving in cinemas in the same week as his far more comedic turn in We’re The Millers, he’s an overbearing father here who you can’t help but feel for. There’s a clear reason he’s the way that he is, and it’s his love for his son that’s ultimately driven him away.
The Kings Of Summer doesn’t quite hold together for the full duration of its running time (convention creeps in more overtly for the final act), but for the majority of its slim running time, this is a real treat. A funny, moving subversion of a coming of age story, that makes you feel for the characters you least expect to. Warmly recommended.
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