After stumbling upon a secluded patch of the forest with school weirdo Biaggio (Moises Arias), 15-year old Joe Troy (Nick Robinson, TV’s Mel and Joey), convinces his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso), who is himself being suffocated by his overprotective folks — to leave home and build a house in the woods to live in the wild free from the control of adults. After much work, the trio begin their journey into manhood in an endearing, heartbreaking and touching tale of friendship and family and the unlikely places from which they spring.
The Kings of Summer is an independent film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013 that released on a limited scale in the US. It was not widely distributed in other parts of the world as well, which is a shame, because this is the type of film that audiences will appreciate.
Beginning with the story, the plot in itself has a touch of whimsy so infectious that audiences will feel a sense of adventure through these three youths, who believe themselves invincible and finding out the hard way that it takes a whole lot more to become men. For one, the mere nerve of plotting something such as leaving everything behind, and doing it in the wild should earn the admiration of even the most strong willed individual. It kind of reminded me of another indie film, Moonrise Kingdom but KOS was more contemporary. It was very interesting to see how they would fare against the challenges of the woods and it was entertaining to note that it resulted in a lot of comedic moments in the film.
The script was also great — the dialogue and the acerbic humor that Joe and his dad both share are absolute gold. The soundtrack was good in setting the mood for the scenes. It gave a very earthy sense to the movie. The transitions that showed the parallelisms between Joe and his dad, Joe and Patrick, as well as the switching from the forest scenes to the youngsters’ homes were very consistent and framed so beautifully.
But the film’s biggest success perhaps, is in casting its three lead characters — three actors who were able to portray three totally different individuals and were able to light the screen up with their easy banter and smooth chemistry. Moises Arias has certainly grown up from his Hannah Montana days, and although he looks weird, I must admit that he is playing his cards right in picking roles that are non conventional but still memorable (he also played an annoying team captain on Ender’s Game). Gabriel Basso as the mama’s boy was very charming but it was Nick Robinson who stole the show in every scene he was in. Whether he was dealing with his dad, with his friends or stumbling along trying to impress the girl, he was able to project in his character a confidence tinged with an underlying anxiety. The intensity in which he portrays his jealousy is a great testament to his acting chops. He really does have a commanding presence and a leader vibe that makes him stand out of the crowd.
The Kings of Summer is a coming of age film that reflects imperfections — in families, in friendships and in love — but it does so so perfectly that it is hard to find fault with the film. And as with these sorts of dramas, the best thing about it is what the characters learn about themselves at the end of their journey. What I really loved about this film was the development of the characters and how well their stories were told. Kudos to director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and screenwriter Chris Galleta as well as all those who worked on this magnificent film.
All in all, KOS was a feel good movie that reminds viewers of what its like to be a teenager. My only complaint perhaps was the amount of the sharp objects the three teenagers were able to obtain for their adventure. I was nervous each time they wielded the weapons for fear of them having an accident, on film or in real life.