Monday, 6 July 2015

Throw a stone in Sundance and you are bound to hit a quirky coming of age film. Not just Sundance, cinema has enjoyed a love affair for the sub genre for decades with the likes of The Breakfast Club, Mean Girls and Stand by Me. And it's not surprising, the transition from child to adult is riddled with questions, events, moments and milestones that are intimately personal but universally recognisable and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has managed to bottle all them emotions and feelings into one perfect slice of summer.

The film centres around three boys, Nick Robinson's Joe, Gabriel Basso's Patrick and Moises Arias' bizarre Biagio, who feel misunderstood by their parents and decide to go full Henry David Thoreau and move into the woods, building their own, surprisingly stylish, house. At first the boys have the time of their lives slicing up watermelons in slow motion and drinking beer but when Erin Moriarty's Kelly drops by to hang out the fun soon stops and the troubles of adult life rear their unwelcome heads. 

What director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has created here is a film everyone can relate to. Even if you didn't live anywhere near a woods, especially one as beautiful as this one, everyone at some point in their childhood cooked up a plan to run away from home and make it on their own. While it is difficult to ever imagine any teenager being able to build a house quite like this one, it looks like the inside of an Urban Outfitters with the added extra of a port-a-loo front door, but you simply don't care about the impossibility because the film is so rich with charm and a sense of fun that to nit pick it seems beside the point. It's not there to examined and taken apart, its there to reflect the childish sense of adventure and imagination that we all once had before we got bogged down in university fees and office jobs. 

The three leads are a joy to be around. Robinson's Joe is a hedonistic leader of the group whose strenuous relationship with his father, played by Nick Offerman, and lose of his mother are the catalyst for moving into the wilderness. Basso's Patrick is the rather think things over before jumping head first into things kind of kid and while he gets less to work with than Robinson, his relationship with his best friend is perfectly depicted in a way we can all relate to. Than there is Biagio, a strange looking kid who somehow finds his way into the group after a keg party gone wrong. We have all seen the weird friend character in pretty much every quirky film from here to Napoleon Dynamite but none have been as strangely hilarious as Arias' character. While Joe and Patrick get a funny line here and there, its Biagio who is the film's comedic heart, especially when he breaks out into dance.

For all the film's charm and charisma there is one fault and that the character of Kelly. The girl is a common component of a coming of age story, after all the discovery of the other sex is a major moment in the transitional period, its the problems that the character brings with her in the last third of the film that feel a little too forced and simply there to bring in the third act resolution.

Despite this flaw it does very little to diminish the final product which is a joyous and fun ninety minutes that while feeling very familiar, is so enjoyable its a challenge not to smile all the way through. Vogt-Roberts has managed to capture and project a childhood desire we all fictionalised in our heads growing up while simultaneously wrestling with the notion of what it means to grow up. The film effortlessly balances maturity and childishness, a perfect reflection of teenage years. We all may have let go of that youthful part of us but The Kings of Summer allows us to relish in it once more.


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