Those middle teen years can be a crushing grind, especially during the summer. You’re not old enough to get in the car and drive far away from your parents and all of the household drama under your roof. There’s never enough privacy. And it seems that no one else realizes that you’re capable of greatness; it’s just that someone besides you needs to have a little faith. Writer Chris Galletta and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts capture the existential angst inherent in coming-of-age stories, but push the envelope a step further.
Once the narrative introduces its three unique protagonists — lead dreamer Joe (Nick Robinson), his loyal right hand man Patrick (Gabriel Basso), and outsider mascot Biaggio (Moises Arias) — Summer turns the neat trick of incorporating a Malickian visual element that creates a more ethereal thematic layer, surprisingly without alienating viewers. The fellas find a swath of pure natural beauty in the woods and decide to build a retreat that becomes their home, but there’s no escaping the hard realities of life and relationships. To say things get darker and more conflicted doesn’t mean that Vogt-Roberts has done anything more than remind adults that we might never have been more mature than when we stood at the cusp of adulthood. (R) Grade: A