Something Like Summer


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Something Like Summer
"It's the kind of film that new relationships will form around and that some viewers will remember fondly all their lives."

Based on the popular young adult book by Jay Bell, Something Like Summer is the story of three young men looking for love. Though not a musical in the strictest sense, it contains several musical performances built around the fact that one of them is a talented singer, and although it deals with some distressing issues it's essentially light-hearted, optimistic and romantic in the Hallmark sense.

There's a shortage of films like this for young gay men, so perhaps it's no surprise that Something Like Summer has won a cluster of awards. It's attractively shot with an appealing young cast and although it will seem clich├ęd to older viewers, there's always somebody discovering these storylines for the first time; it's the kind of film that new relationships will form around and that some viewers will remember fondly all their lives. But like comparable dramas about mixed sex encounters, it has some discomfiting things going on under the surface.

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Grant Davis is Ben, a shy young man who has nevertheless taken the plunge and come out at his Texas high school. He hasn't exactly received a warm reception, but he's found a social niche within the theatre crowd, and gets a lot of support from straight best friend Allison (Ajiona Alexus), who rather delightfully performs every function required of a gay best friend in a standard Hollywood narrative, short of dying to help the hero find himself. Ben is distracted, however, by a massive crush on square-jawed jock Tim (Davi Santos), and when Tim unexpectedly reciprocates that experience, a passionate relationship ensues.

Needless to say, the course of true love does not run smooth. The film follows Tim over a number of years as he moves away to college and begins to live an independent life. In the process he falls for airline steward Jace (Ben Baur, the most impressive of the three leads), the they proceed to live the dream, with a cosy apartment and a cat and lots of soulful gazing into one another's eyes. Until, that is, Tim reappears, now out of the closet and determined to win back Ben's heart.

It's easy to understand the appeal of being fought over by two people (both of whom might ordinarily be expected to be out of Ben's league), and the simple lines with which the characters are drawn - Jace, in particular, being a Perfect Boyfriend template straight out of a teen magazine - are forgiveable given the intended audience. What's more problematic is that Ben's terrible decisions are too often glossed over as romantic, and there's a meant to be ethos which means that what might seem wonderful to young viewers looks to older ones like a highway to heartbreak. Tim's self-centred and manipulative behaviour is treated as forgiveable because it's motivated by love (so he says) and he's always sorry later. Of course, exploring characters and behaviours like this is perfectly legitimate, but it sits uncomfortably alongside Cian McCarthy's sentimental score.

At a technical level, the film is flawless to the point of feeling a little over-produced. The cast are all capable within the limits of their roles and Davis has a singing voice that perfectly complements the mood. Whilst the film doesn't shy away from sex, more is implied that actually seen, keeping the focus on the emotional aspect of the relationships. Overall, Something Like Summer is very good at what it does, but what it does never really gets beyond the superficial.

Reviewed on: 16 Jul 2017
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Something Like Summer packshot
Two men who secretly fell in love at high school struggle to balance their friendship as adults with their lingering romantic feelings.

Director: David Berry

Writer: Carlos Pedraza, based on the book by Jay Bell

Starring: Grant Davis, Davi Santos, Ben Baur, Ajiona Alexus, Jana Lee Hamblin, Ron Boyd

Year: 2017

Runtime: 115 minutes

Country: US


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