Directed by: Kyle Wilamowski
Premise: On a summer night, a teenager (Tye Sheridan) is dared by his friends (Austin Abrams and Ryan Lee) to pull a prank on the family of his crush (Kaitlyn Dever). When things go tragically wrong, the boys must cope with guilt and grief.
What Works: There is a whole genre of movies about young men losing their innocence and coming of age during the summer. Titles like Stand by Me, Adventureland, and Kings of Summer explore that idea in slightly different ways. It’s an attractive concept because the stories can be nostalgic while also dealing with substantive issues. All Summers End is another entry in this genre but it is a little different than these other films. A lot of those movies celebrate the moment in which boys turn into men and the profound feelings associated with this period of our lives. All Summers End frames those issues a little differently. The story centers upon Conrad, a teenager with two cretinous friends, and the three boys spend their summer days biking the streets of their small town. Conrad crushes on fellow teenager Grace but when the other boys embarrass him for it, Conrad tries to prove his independence with a prank against Grace’s home. That prank has tragic consequences and Conrad debates his responsibility. All Summers End is about a boy crossing the threshold into adulthood and it includes some of the usual themes of this genre like sexual awakening and fractious male friendships but it also frames maturation as about taking responsibility for one’s actions and mortality and loss. A lot of coming of age movies are about what we get when we become older but as the title implies, All Summers End is about the characters losing things including friends and innocence. That’s a little more complicated than we usually get from a film like this.
What Doesn’t: All Summers End is a story in which the protagonist gets ahead based on a lie and it’s a matter of time before that lie catches up with him. Most viewers ought to anticipate where this is going although the film does this kind of story well and makes the path to the conclusion interesting. But more troubling is how Conrad benefits from his misbehavior. The tragedy makes Grace vulnerable and the two of them enter a romance under false pretenses. The whole point of the movie is Conrad’s ethical problem so it’s not wrong of the movie to go in this direction but it’s so sleazy on his part that the film risks losing the viewer’s empathy. That problem is compounded by Grace’s lack of characterization. She is never much more than Conrad’s girlfriend. His friends also lack depth. They are established as idiots and neither of them seems plagued by the same level of guilt. All Summers End is Conrad’s story so it makes sense that the film limits itself in that way but the approach handicaps the emotional impact of the collapse of the boys’ friendship.
DVD extras: None.
Bottom Line: All Summers End is an admirable drama. The film remains within a familiar framework but tells its story well and approaches familiar coming-of-age themes with an appreciation for the darker and more complicated side of growing up.
Episode: #763 (August 25, 2019)