The ‘coming-of-age’ film genre is one that has fallen by the wayside in recent years, seemingly in favour of horror porn and action flicks mostly featuring either superheroes or washed-up action stars. So it’s refreshing to see it resurface once more with the utterly brilliant 'The Kings Of Summer', which premiered in the UK at Sundance London earlier in the year.
The film follows best friends Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso), who are frustrated by their suffocating and domineering parents. They decide they’ve had enough of living under autocratic parental rule, so in an act of rebellion they run away from home and secretly set up camp in the woods. Together with their incredibly weird friend Biaggo (a scene-stealing Moises Arias), they build a makeshift house in the middle of the woods and finally see what it feels like to be king of their castle.
The trio spend their summer having an unforgettable adventure, attempting - with mixed results - to live off the land. But they soon learn that they can’t keep reality at arms’ length forever, especially when a girl comes between them and threatens to destroy their friendship forever.
In the same vein as 'Stand By Me' and 'The Goonies', 'The Kings Of Summer' takes the audience on a journey with a troop of loveable kids on the cusp of adulthood. It’s an archetypal coming-of-age story, but one which is even more powerful for its rejection of technology and the modern world in favour of a return to nature. It’s a nostalgic portrayal of boyhood, as the three main protagonists run around the woods brandishing sticks and try their hand at hunting and fishing.
The sense of nostalgia in the film is balanced by an undercurrent of humour, which is down to Chris Galletta's brilliant screenplay. Equal parts heartfelt and painfully hilarious - 'The Kings Of Summer' reminds you what was so wonderful about being fourteen whilst avoiding being overly saccharine or annoyingly quirky.
Although it occasionally descends into slapstick lunacy, the action never feels forced or derivative, which is due to the brilliant comic timing and note-perfect performances from the three gifted young leads. The supporting cast is also bursting with comedy talent, with impressive performances from former 'Will And Grace' star Megan Mullally, 'Community'’s Alison Brie and 'Parks And Recreation' man Nick Offerman.
'The Kings Of Summer' is the first feature-length film from young director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, and what an accomplished début it is. Keenly-observed characters, note-perfect performances and beautifully framed shots of the idyllic wilderness make every single frame a joy to watch.
Very rarely do you see a film about those awkward adolescence years that’s really able to capture the very essence of being that age. The problem is that everyone remembers the angst and frustration of being fourteen – embarrassing parents, unrequited first loves and that burning desire for adulthood. Which is why 'The Kings Of Summer' is such a cinematic triumph. It’s one of those rare films that has a mass appeal and will undoubtedly be enjoyed by viewers of all ages and backgrounds.
'The Kings Of Summer' is out today in UK cinemas, through STUDIOCANAL.