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 hidden fortress with your friends, then The Kings of Summer is like your memories being played back to you at 24 frames a second. The brotherhood of Joe (Nick Robinson), Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and Biaggio (Moisés Arias) feel 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 – every track shines with a 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 film’s sound. At times, Kings of Summer feels like a video game adventure bound together by the tone of a tender coming-of-age comedy-drama. There isn’t a day where the poignant melody of ‘Fatherson’ or the contemplative and melancholic twangs of ‘Where Is Joseph Toy?’ do not cross my mind, whether it be through how a feeling or a memory that’s snuck into my mind. Ryan Miller somehow takes that indescribable feeling of nostalgia and extracts its raw essence, distilling it into sonic form.
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 films deal with the complicated relationship many boys have with their dads and the reality that a father figure 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 its 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. The soundtracks alone have a powerful grip over me, reducing me to tears because of the associations etched into my mind. 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 leaves a scar on your brain – you forget about it over time, 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 painful – but I know it’s a good kind of pain, at least. That pain means I’ve still not forgotten my grandfather, whose memory lives forever in mine.