Summering (2022)

Lia Barnett, Sanai Victoria, Madalen Mills, Eden Grace Redfield,
During their last days of summer and childhood -- the weekend before middle school begins -- four girls struggle with the harsh truths of growing up and embark on a mysterious adventure.
  • 4.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2022-09-02 Added:
  • Benjamin Percy, Writer:
  • James Ponsoldt, Director:
  • Peter Block, P. Jennifer Dana, Producer:


5 / 10

this is not Stand By Me

Greetings again from the darkness. Obviously, I was never a young girl fretting over the first year of middle school, and I would venture a guess that neither were writer-director James Ponsoldt or co-writer Benjamin Percy. The reason for this point is that this is a story of four girls in this situation, as well as the stress their actions load on their four mothers. Ponsoldt and Percy make this an observational story, rather than a personal one ... a significant point of difference for a film like this. I had agreed to review the film based on being a huge fan of Mr. Ponsoldt's 2013 film, THE SPECTACULAR NOW, but while that one was adapted from a novel, this current film is an original, and it lacks the depth and refinement of that previous gem ... despite some decent acting from the cast, young and older.

Daisy (Lia Barnett), Lola (Sanai Victoria), Dena (Madalen Mills), and Mari (Eden Grace Redfield) are best friends frittering away the last few days of summer by hanging out the way young kids used to. There are no scheduled soccer practices and no structured piano lessons, only (mostly) unsupervised freedom to explore and live the moments that make up a day. The mothers (Lake Bell, Megan Mullaly, Sarah Cooper, Ashley Madekwe) are normal moms - carrying the burden of parenthood, work, and self-identity. They care for their daughters very much, despite one of them spending most of her non-working hours in an alcohol and divorce-induced sleep mode, oblivious to the comings and goings of her kid.

The film has a terrific start. We see the girls simply enjoying being around each other and sharing their concerns for the upcoming school year. This segment seems very natural and realistic. We immediately pick up on their personalities. Daisy is reserved and longs to be noticed. Lola is spiritually connected and will be the guiding force for an activity later in the story. Dena is quite smart and grounded in reality, while Mari frets over wearing a skirt to Catholic school. The friends banter about their uncertain future and the conversation drifts and bounces, just as we'd expect.

Things change quickly as the girls head to "Terabithia", their secret spot off the beaten path. It's here where they discover the body of an adult man who seemingly jumped from "Suicide Bridge" above. It's at this point where we realize this is a girl version of Rob Reiner's classic STAND BY ME (1986). Only that's not what happens. Instead, we are subjected to a Nancy Drew knock-off where the girls attempt to solve the case as they wax philosophically about growing older. Almost nothing works from this point onward. We don't really get to better understand each of the girls, and significant time is spent on their mothers' reactions. Ghosts appear, while dads are presented in unfavorable light. The narration is heavy-handed, and what started with the theme of 'anything is possible during summer', leaves us with clunky dialogue and very little insight to pre-middle school girls.

Opening in theaters on August 12, 2022.

3 / 10

Despite beautiful production and good intentions, Ponsoldt creates a summer mess

Originally Premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival in the Sundance Kids Selection.

"Summering" focuses on four best friends on the brink of starting middle school realize their lives are about to change forever. On the last weekend of summer, they set out to make the most of it. James Ponsoldt had a promising career with his directing films. Off the Black was a decent debut project, Smashed and The Spectacular Now were amazing and touching, and The End of the Tour was pretty good. But The Circle was a mess of a film and it felt like Ponsoldt threw away his talent in that project. I was hoping Summering would be a much better film.

I really wanted to like this, but unfortunately it really feels sloppy. Summering has good intentions as it's about a coming of age story. Girlhood, friendship and on the verge to encounter the harsh parts of reality. Ponsoldt shows his passion for this project but the story itself feels really all over the place. The main core itself felt like there were many themes and concepts trying to be put together and it makes it a mess since the film doesn't really focus on it's themes as much as it wanted too. It tries to be a mix of comedy, coming of age drama, some spooky elements and such. While some concepts did work out, as an overall story, it feels sloppy and it felt like Ponsoldt had too many ideas in one.

"Summering" does have some pros. The production and set designs does have a nostalgic feel to it. The colorful backgrounds and presentations helps to create a 80s, 90s or early 2000s feel of growing up. The performances from the cast were mediocre. Nobody had a terrible performance and they did their best to play their characters. However the dialogue does drag the performances because the words spoken from the child actors felt like words written by an adult and it makes the film unrealistic. There was certain parts where I thought that the words that were spoken was so unrealistic that no child would ever speak that way.

The characters themselves weren't as interesting to connect with and the film really feels like a tone down version of Stand By Me. It's a shame because Ponsoldt had a promising career but unfortunately he hasn't improved much from his last disaster "The Circle". The soundtrack wasn't great, the pacing could be improved and the execution was bland for the most part.

Ponsoldt wasn't able to create a good film here and it ends up becoming forgettable by the end of the day. It's no doubt there is good intentions in this movie but there is still a lot to improve for the story. Young children may enjoy this film but I would recommend The Sandlot, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Way, Way Back or The Kings of Summer for a better coming of age movie.

Rating: D+

7 / 10

Some humor, mystery, and childhood insights

IN A NUTSHELL:As their last summer before middle school comes to a close, four best friends face the uncertainties of growing up and embark on their biggest adventure yet. The movie was directed by James Ponsoldt, as well as written by him with help from Benjamin Percy.

I completely agree with the director when he said, "As the parent of three young children, I find myself constantly in this delicate gray space of both needing to protect my children and wanting them to live fearlessly." He explained, "I wanted to make a film in which my daughter could see herself. And her friends. I hoped to dignify the emotional inner lives of young female characters, to explore their imaginations and fears and hopes while they're on the cusp of adolescence." He further shared that he likes to think of this movie as a platonic love story between four friends.

THINGS I LIKED:It's a coming-of-age movie mixed with some humor, gentle insights, and mystery.

The cast of women and girls includes Megan Mullally, Lake Bell, Lia Barnett, Sarah Cooper, Eden Grace Redfield, Sanai Victoria, Madalen Mills, and Ashley Madekwe.

There's a moment when the girls walk past a painting of a tree. The leaves are made out of painted handprints, which slowly fall to the ground. It was intriguing and symbolic, so I wish there had been more whimsical moments like that in the film. I thought it perfectly illustrated that fuzzy line between childhood fantasy and stepping into the reality of adolescence.

The movie was filmed in Utah during Covid and a heat wave.

There's definitely a feeling of nostalgia that moms will be able to relate to, and I appreciated that the mothers' perspectives were subtly added to the story.

Some of the young actresses do an outstanding job. With the help of a two-time, Emmy-winning casting director, Avy Kaufman, they were able to cast girls who had an authentic quality about them.

Director Ponsoldt knew that he and his writing partner would have blind spots when it came to telling a story in which allof the protagonists - and most of the supporting characters - are girls or women. He shared, "We both have strong,amazing women of different ages in our lives, so we made a pact that at every stage we would bring on femalecollaborators to scrutinize the story and tell us what we were missing, whether it was our producer or ourcinematographer or the actors themselves."There's a lovely musical score and final song.

THINGS I DIDN'T LIKE:For a movie about young girls, there wasn't very much screaming! The movie was written and directed by men. Have they been around squealy girls lately?

It's super frustrating to watch the girls make terrible choices.

There are some bad acting moments.

Some viewers will get tired of waiting for something to "happen".

There are some spooky moments that are never explained, other than they represent the girls' fears. The crime, itself, is never resolved. Of course, it's secondary to what it means to the girls, but it still would have been nice to have some closure.

The film vacillates between being a melancholy exploration of childhood as the girls end their summer together and a mysterious horror (PG-rated, of course). It felt honest and easy when the movie focused on the girls, yet somehow forced and contrived when it tried to introduce the ghost-like images.

TIPS FOR PARENTS:Girls spit off a bridge onto the cars belowKids lie to their parents One of the girls gives another one advice by saying, "You already lied. Just lie again."Kids see and handle a dead manKids spend time in a bar.

The girls have a seance.

THEMES:ChildhoodDeathFriendshipTruthFearsAnxietyHopeSisterhoodMother/daughter relationships.

You can see the full review on the Movie Review Mom YouTube channel.

7 / 10

Tells A Relatable Story About Young Girls Finding Their Way Through A Challenge

We all know what it's like to face change and challenges. And we always desire the best possible outcome from a predicament. Summering tells a relatable story about young girls finding their way through a challenge, while delivering a distinctive storyline.

Summering focuses on four best friends Dina (Madalen Mills), Lola (Sanai Victoria), Mari (Eden Grace Redfield), and Daisy (Lia Barnett) who are about to start middle school. With that comes plenty of questions and new challenges. On the weekend before school starts, the girls find themselves embarking on a peculiar adventure. These four best friends must work together to find the answer to their mystery and prepare for this new chapter in their lives.

Even though the characters in Summering are facing a fictional and fantasy-like situation, the plot is still somewhat relatable. These four best friends have to explore themselves and find out who they really are as they are growing older. They know that it is best to go on this journey together, but they worry about what obstacles will get in the way. Dina, Lola, Mari and Daisy also all have specific issues present in their life, making their friendships even more crucial. Anybody that is going through significant changes, no matter if they are young or old, can find something applicable to their lives in this story. The plot of Summering does seem a bit incomplete and choppy at certain parts of the film-the main mystery and conflict aren't really resolved which can leave viewers confused after watching. The background music of the film is particularly interesting as it matches the tone of the film and the events taking place in the scenes. Summering has a darker style, and the dark music compliments that-"props" to Drum & Lace for providing this high-quality soundtrack.

The message of Summering is that a lot of times opposites attract. Dina, Lola, Mari, and Daisy need each other to balance themselves out. Each brings something different to the friend group, ultimately bringing them all closer together.

I give Summering 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18. This film has minimal mild language and a middle school to high school demographic would enjoy it. By Maica N., KIDS FIRST!