Summer Night

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Summer Night
dir Joseph Cross
scr Jordan Jolliff
prd Tara Ansley, Joseph Cross, Audrey Tommassini
with Ellar Coltrane, Ian Nelson, Analeigh Tipton, Callan McAuliffe, Ella Hunt, Bill Milner, Lana Condor, Justin Chatwin, Victoria Justice, Melina Vidler, Hayden Szeto, Elena Kampouris, Khris Davis
release US 12.Jul.19
19/US 1h34

nelson tipton mcauliffe

coltrane, szeto and milner
A comedy-drama set in a small town, this lively film has a refreshingly loose tone as it circles an ensemble of young people over one evening. Director Joseph Cross and writer Jordan Jolliff meander between characters, playfully entangling relationships with unspoken crushes, private secrets and a general theme of youth transitioning into adulthood. Even with little sense of direction, the sharp filmmaking and acting keep it engaging.
Best pals Jameson and Seth (Coltrane and Nelson) still find time to escape for swimming in the woods. Then Seth's girlfriend Mel (Tipton) finds out she's pregnant. Her friends Lexi and Vanessa (Condor and Vidler) try to calm her down, but Lexi has her own issues with her boyfriend Jack (Milner). Tonight, everyone is heading to the Alamo for a concert featuring hometown boy Taylor (McAuliffe), who is violently mugged on his way into town and nursed to health by Dana (Hunt). Each relationship comes to a head as the concert rolls along.
Despite the drugs and violence (plus the aftermath of off-screen sex), the tone is gentle and unchallenging. But the film bristles as characters bounce off each other to spark humour and emotion. The film is also peppers with terrific songs in the concert scenes (Chatwin pops up as a zenned-out mentor-barman-musician). The ensemble is likeable, with focal characters driving the momentum and side roles providing comic relief and romantic complications.

Nelson has the most textured role as a relaxed guy struggling against his girlfriend's overwpowering sense of doom. Yes, Tipton's role is kind of one-note. Coltrane brings a loose energy to scenes with Jameson's worldly date (Justice) for the night, who immediately spots his unfinished business with Corin (Kampouris). Milner and Condor build the tension beautifully as Jack and Lexi head into a difficult, very well-played conversation. And McAuliffe is solid as a guy who simply takes life as it comes, unruffled by his romantic triangle with Hunt's bland-but-charming Dana and Vidler's maneater Vanessa.

Yes, there's definitely a sense that male roles are far more developed than female ones. But the actresses add plenty of personality to their scenes, which helps bring the women to life. The film uses smooth camerawork and editing to balance its plot threads, punctuating the running time with notable conversations that push resonant buttons for the audience. The ultimate message seems to be that meaning comes from simply being aware that life is happening around you. Not hugely challenging, but rather comforting.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs 7.Jul.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall