Film review: The Kings of Summer (15)


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The Independent Culture

It's a coming-of-age movie, though not quite as we know it. Best friends Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso) are 15 years old and fed up with their parents. Patrick's are invasively friendly, while Joe's widowed father has withdrawn into unreachable, sarcastic gruffness.

On discovery of a clearing deep in the woods, Joe decides on a Thoreau-like experiment: they will abscond from home and build themselves a ramshackle house for the summer. Its tone seesaws between the pained confusion of adolescence and the quirkiness of an American indie debut, the latter incarnated in the Puckish figure of Biaggio (Moisés Arias), the boys' diminutive fixer, while the former is represented by Kelly (Erin Moriarty), the dream blonde admired by both. The domestic idyll begins to flake in the heat.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts and screenwriter Chris Galletta don't quite manage to dovetail the different elements – kooky fable, pastoral charmer, family drama – but there's tender characterisation, good performances and fabulous deadpan humour from Joe's dad (Nick Offerman). "Are you familiar with the story of the boy who cried wolf?" a rookie cop asks him. "Yes", he replies. "I experienced a childhood on planet earth."