The Kings of Summer is now available to stream, rent or buy.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts debut feature captures the magic of adolescent friendships as everything changes. If you’ve ever built a base, den, or a hidden fortress with your friends, then it’s like watching your memories playback in front of you at 24 frames a second. Here the brotherhood of Joe (Nick Robinson), Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and Biaggio (Moisés Arias) feels painfully honest, especially in the film’s more tender moments where teen life begins to invade the comfort and security of a childhood coming to an end.
Ryan Miller’s soundtrack is undoubtedly one of the greatest film soundtracks of the last two decades. Here every track shines with tender emotion that’s inexplicable yet so intimately understood – his incorporation of a menagerie of instruments from synths to 8-bit video game SFX is a testament to the emotional intelligence that went into crafting The Kings of Summer’s sound. At times it feels like a video-game adventure while equally capturing the tone of a tender coming-of-age drama alongside comedic cues. There isn’t a day where the poignant melody of ‘Fatherson’ or the contemplative and melancholic twangs of ‘Where Is Joseph Toy?’ don’t cross my mind, whether it be through how I’m feeling or a memory that’s snuck into my mind. Ryan Miller is somehow able to take that indescribable feeling of nostalgia, extract its raw essence, and distil it into sonic form.
READ MORE: THE WAY WAY BACK
I found The Kings of Summer at the same time as The Way Way Back, and now the two are like the biblical texts of my adolescence. Both deal with the complicated relationship many boys have with their father and the reality that father figures can emerge from anywhere. For me, it was my grandfather. It’s difficult to overstate how much of who I am, stems from my grandfather’s influence – he introduced me to classic films, especially musicals, and would often amuse me with his impressions. He would tell me stories about his life while I sat and listened in ore. To me, both The Way Way Back and The Kings of Summer are, at their heart, detailed explorations of the people who anchor you to the world and their importance.
THE KINGS OF SUMMER (2013) ©STUDIOCANAL
I adore both The Kings of Summer and The Way Way Back, but I have rarely if ever, revisited them – because it’s so hard for me to do so. The soundtracks alone have this powerful grip over me, able to reduce me to tears because of the permanent associations etched into my brain. Maybe it is also because watching Liam James’ Duncan, or Nick Robinson’s Joe is like seeing the 14-year-old me again, my past life reflected through a cinematic lens.
When I see them struggle through their pain, I see myself. Grief feels like a mental scar left on your brain – over time, you forget about it, but it’s always there, waiting for a single moment, memory, smell or experience to rush back into your life. So, to watch The Kings of Summer and The Way Way Back would be very, very painful – but I know it’s the good kind of pain at least. That pain ensures that I’ve still not forgotten my grandfather, and his memory lives forever in mine.