One of this past summer’s hidden gems, “The Kings of Summer,” perfectly embodies the resiliency of friendship and teenage spirit. This movie, filmed almost completely in Cleveland and nominated for the Grand Jury prize at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, delights in every way with its witty, funny dialogue, beautifully-designed shots and genuine acting performances.
As their first year of high school ends and their parents grow more and more annoying, best friends Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) and Patrick Keenan (Gabriel Basso), with tag-along friend Biaggio (Moises Arias), run away to the woods. There, with random parts accumulated from their homes and other spots around town, they build a house as the ultimate act of rebellion and independence.
Joe and Patrick are believable characters because, at some point in our lives, we were them. We know what it’s like to want to run away and we envy them because they had the determination to do something we’ve all dreamed of doing. In Joe and Patrick, Robinson and Basso capture the angst and attitude-filled, frustratingly awkward time between the teenage and adult years. Biaggio, the oddball of the trio, provides the comic relief in some of the funniest moments of the movie and, in many ways, steals the show.
As their parents search for them in vain, the boys make a life for themselves in the woods. They spend their days swimming and cliff jumping, racing each other through fields, slicing things with swords and pounding rhythms out on an abandoned pipeline. They’re on the cusp of adulthood, just beginning to figure out who they are. Although they’re desperate to be adults, especially in their parents’ eyes, they still view life with the innocence of children who haven’t been exposed to the realities of life yet. The naivety with which they navigate their time in the woods is evident of a time that we all wish we could get back to now and then; a time before the harshness of college, real relationships and finding a job set in.
The story, told through beautiful and visually captivating cinematography, is energetic and full of life. The montages of the boys building the house and their days together are wonderful, and the more experimental and interesting slow motion and fast motion shots are a breath of fresh air in contrast to the typical summer blockbuster editing formats. The close ups in the film – a candle being blown out, a bee pollinating a flower, a single Monopoly piece – are well shot.
Everything about “The Kings of Summer” is wonderful; it is the essence of what a “feel-good” movie should be. In just ninety-five minutes, we are taken back to a time of innocence, when our parents were too overbearing, but we loved them anyway. When we thought we were falling for someone, but learned the hard way how fragile our hearts can be. A time when friendships were tested by the smallest things and we witnessed the true resiliency of those friendships for the first time. We run away with Joe, Patrick and Biaggio, build a house in the woods, and watch the sunset while we wonder idly, when, if ever, we will grow up.
“The Kings of Summer” is on the MUvie Channel for the month of October.
FIve out of five stars.