The Kings of Summer
The Kings of Summer is a coming-of-age movie about two young boys trying to escape the stranglehold of their overbearing parents so that they might redefine their identities and grow into men.
Joe and Patrick have been best friends since childhood, both slightly awkward and dealing with all the complications that come with growing up. Joe in particular is consumed with an all-encompassing crush on his pretty, blonde friend, Kelly.
Joe’s single dad, Frank, is a beardy cynic, with little time for people’s nonsense or idiocy and particularly tough on Joe. The fact that it is just the two of them living together has heightened the tension in their relationship. Patrick’s parents, on the other hand, are overly lovey-dovey, sheltering him through their obsessive observations of his actions and annoyingly cutesy advice that would be better given to a five year old.
Joe comes up with the idea that they should build a den in a remote spot of the woods, where they can hide out over summer and discover their masculinity.
This film really captures the complex spirit of relationships between friends and family, as well as self-discovery and reflection. To these young boys the essence of masculinity is considered something physical, only to be obtained through actions such as hunting. They feel that putting emotions aside and living rough is the way to gain that inner strength which, as gender stereotypes suggest, is at the heart of a man.
This idea is shattered with the interruptions of various feelings: emotional turmoil arises from a love triangle rift between the two friends and Kelly, and at the same time, the boys’ disappearance forces Frank in particular to reflect on how he has acted towards his son. These sensitive issues are played out alongside comedic scenes revolving around the eccentricity of characters such as Patrick’s parents, Joe’s sister’s boyfriend and the wide-eyed Biaggio, who joins them in the woods.
The film’s only downfall is the underdevelopment of certain emotional issues, which are briefly touched on and then feel too quickly resolved. You can forgive the distraction of director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ lovely montage sequences of the boys setting up and hanging out in the woods, as well as the use of slow motion, which emphasises the lingering moments of happiness and sadness in youth.
This is a heart-warming and entertaining film that will take you back to the freedom, confusions and general wistful, emotional state of being young.
Watch the trailer for The Kings of Summer here: