Summering is an appealing, if safe, drama about the bonds of female adolescence: Sundance Film Festival Review

Comparisons to Rob Reiner’s 1986 coming-of-age drama Stand By Me will be inevitable when discussing James Ponsoldt‘s Summering; the Sundance fixture returning to the festival following his last effort, the critically mauled 2017 Tom Hanks vehicle The Circle, the first of his filmography to not screen at the festival.  The dark elements, thematic inclinations, and all-female ensemble means it’s more correct to liken it to 1995’s Now and Then, Lesli Linka Glatter’s femme-bonding outing that focused on a quartet of pre-teens and the summer that unexpectedly defined their childhood.

On the cusp of moving into middle school, and perhaps unprepared to face the possibility that their childhood friendship may not be a permanent fixture, Summering‘s quartet – Eden Grace Redfield, Madalen Willis, Sanai Victoria, and Lia Barnett – spend their last seasonal hours embarking on an adventure.  Innocence is effectively lost when they discover a dead body under the town’s overpass – appropriately dubbed “The suicide bridge”.  Though this finding kickstarts a day of investigation, it’s the questioning of the validity of their friendship and their own beings that Ponsoldt’s script – co-written with Benjamin Percy (the Marvel podcast series, Wolverine) – truly delves into.

Redfield’s impressionable Mari and Barnett’s Daisy are the two characters that earn the most prominence outside of the group’s activities – which also include the ritualistic practice of a séance – with their mothers (Megan Mullally and Lake Bell, respectively) inserting themselves predominantly into the fold; Mullally as an over-protective archetype trying her best to not jump to the worst conclusion when the girls stop replying to their parents calls, and Bell as a working police officer who has retreated into her profession and a sense of depression springing from the actions of her ex-husband.

As much as the film looks into adult-aimed subjects, Summering very much frames itself as a family-friendly affair, albeit for those with kids on the higher end of the childhood spectrum.  It’s pleasant-enough viewing that may not necessarily go anywhere overtly interesting in terms of plot, but the natural chemistry and realistic portrayal of adolescence keeps the film elevated, even as it threatens to succumb to conventionality.  There’s a dark, more confronting film here that Ponsoldt could have explored, but in keeping his mentality more audience friendly, he’s created an appealing, if perhaps safe, drama that’s true win is in its depiction of youthful friendship.

THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Summering is screening as part of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which is being presented virtually between January 20th and 30th, 2022.  For more information head to the official Sundance page.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,