Summering – Film Review

Director: James Ponsoldt

Writers: James Ponsoldt and Benjamin Percy

Starring: Lia Barnett, Lake Bell, Sarah Cooper, Ashley Madekwe, Madelen Mills, Megan Mullaly, Eden Grace Redfield, and Sanai Victoria

Rating: ★★★½

Summering is a coming-of-age mystery film directed by James Ponsoldt, who also co-wrote the script with Benjamin Percy. The story follows four teenagers during the last weeks of summer, with the beginning of middle school looming in the near future. While out playing, not wanting the summer to end, they come across a dead body in the middle of the woods. Instead of telling their parents or the police they decide to investigate themselves to find find out the person’s identity.

All of the leads are really good, making the ridiculous premise work and not come across as silly. Their friendship feels very authentic and real straight from the opening scene. The story itself is a little off putting at first, because it doesn’t make sense why they don’t just tell someone about the body. There’s a slight hint that it might cause them danger in case the person had been murdered, but it’s not the main reason they decide to investigate it themselves. It’s a little distracting, and if the film had a better spark to ignite their investigation it would be a lot better.

At one point they even suggest that the body isn’t real, which would have made more sense, except it has to be real for certain clues to be followed. They take a picture of the body, with a filter on, to see if anyone knows the person’s name, so there must have been a body. To blur the line between their imagination and reality it would made more sense if it was something like they’d taken a photo from a wallet or something similar that they’d found.  

In some ways it feels completely modern with one of the main characters having a mobile phone, and another knowing about the dark web, in others it feels like something you’d expect from the 80s, with a plot line that feels like it would be right at home in a Stephen King story. At it’s core it feels very traditional as it’s about the timeless theme of growing up.

One of the best things about this film is how it blends different genres and styles. The film opens with three of the four girls sitting in a bathtub fearing being caught. It almost comes across like a horror film, and it really works. There’s also moments later where they see the ghost of the dead person they find that is a little unnerving. It’s only a slight amount of horror, but it makes the film feel fresh. At the same time, it’s also very funny in places, and it’s never short on a sentimental reflection on growing up.  

Summering is a charming and sentimental coming-of-age story. It hits some familiar beats, but it’s still effective due to great performances from the four leads and an intriguing central mystery.

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About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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