This little movie is going to have a hard time being discovered due to the title’s close proximity to a recent Netflix romcom and the director sharing his name with a world-famous UFC fighter.
Jon Jones the filmmaker has quite the history of directing television including the miniseries The Diary of Anne Frank and the opening episodes of Mr Selfridge. Last Summer marks his theatrical feature debut and there’s little to remark about it except that it’s remarkably boring.
Following four lads in West Wales during a long summer in the 1970s, this Stand By Me-esque drama begins like a reverse Martyrs – the first of several films we’re reminded of, to the detriment of our engagement with the scene in view – where one boy’s father murders his wife and starts shooting at the kids before turning the shotgun on himself.
The boys escape unharmed (physically, at least) and the ensuing narrative entails them dealing with the aftermath when social services get involved, parents threaten to send some of them to Swansea and their beloved dog Rex goes on the loose, all tearing the fabric of their friendship. Jones’s screenplay is allergic to plot, preferring to focus on character but his portrait of youth is skeletally drawn.
However, there is one character with some meat on his bones and that’s the troubled Kev (Steffan Cennydd), who’s involved with the copper Yvonne (Ruth Ollman) and most impacted by the scenario, which is otherwise seen through the eyes of alienated ten-year-old Davy (Noa Thomas). There are fine performances from the debuting actors, if none outstanding. It’s hardly credible that the next Matthew Rhys or Anthony Hopkins is within this crop of young Welsh talent but that’s ok as long as none of them become the new John Rhys-Davies.
Jones’s first cinematic foray is competently shot and edited but has none of the magic of the theatrical experience, whether that’s inspiration, shock, relatability or any other emotional purpose. Last Summer feels like the vision of a filmmaker wanting to make a story about his youth for personal catharsis rather than to fulfil the potential of the medium in any way.
Quite frankly, it won’t be too bad if this film gets lost in between similar search terms on Google. All movies have value to someone, somewhere, and it’s likely Last Summer will be worthwhile to those who have run out of Zopiclone tablets.
Last Summer is released in select cinemas on 7th June 2019.
Watch the trailer for Last Summer here: