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Release Date: ../../.. [Festival Run]
Genre: Comedy.

Studio: Coveside Films. Honor Role. 

[Seen for Tribeca 2024]

"Fourteen-year-old Griffin Nafly is the most ambitious playwright of his generation. But once he meets handsome twenty-five-year-old handyman Brad, his life (and play) will never be the same." 


For most teens, summer is everything: a break from school, a time to catch up on sleep and an excuse to make endless memories with friends. But Griffin Nafly isn’t like most teens. While he does have friends and enjoys spending time with them, nothing matters more to him than his plays. Summer provides him with all the time he needs to perfect them so that he can coerce his friends into helping him produce and perform them. 


At the start of the film Griffin in Summer, as the school year draws to a close, our titular character notices something different among his friend group. While they are still down to star in his newest play, they are more drawn towards things like dating, gossiping and even drinking (hard seltzer). While he doesn’t mind doing all the work by himself, the lack of company does bum him out. Just as the loneliness begins to settle in, the arrival of a mysterious handyman in town changes the course of Griffin’s creativity - and life - forever.


Now, you don’t have to look any further than the film’s opening scene to realize that Griffin’s understanding of relationships is distorted. During his school’s end-of-year talent show, he performs a dialogue from his work-in-progress play between two toxic lovers. In a matter of minutes it devolves into an argument about alcoholism, infidelity and an abortion. It’s not that Griffin doesn’t understand the world, but he has some overly dramatic preconceived notions about it. The fact that his parents argue - and that his dad is barely around to guide him - doesn’t help. Hence why he is rattled when his mom hires a young man named Brad to help out with some of the house chores for the summer.


Initially, Brad is stand-offish. As both we and Griffin come to find out, he’s an ex-resident of Borwood (the fictional small town where the film is set) who has just returned after trying to make it as a performance artist in New York City. His only motivation for working for Griffin’s mom is to ultimately make enough money to return back. But having never met someone older than him who shares his passion for the arts, Griffin becomes enamored. After several awkward encounters, Griffin musters the courage to share his play with Brad. In a surprise turn of events, Brad feels comfortable sharing his work too. An equally awkward bond ensues between the two. 


The relationship between Griffin and Brad is never inappropriate, but that doesn’t stop Griffin from developing feelings for him. After all, Brad becomes the most influential person in Griffin’s life at one of the most pivotal times in his life. He is not just proof that you can still do art as an adult, but that it is a way out of their boring suburb. That’s not to say that their relationship is one-sided either. While Brad might not reciprocate Griffin’s feelings, he still appreciates him. For the first time in his life, it seems like he finally has someone that understands him and sees beyond his looks. 


Everett Blunck delivers a powerhouse performance as Griffin. Although the aforementioned opening “monologue” provides an ample sense of his incredible range, you’ll still be shocked at his earth-shattering emotional depth. When the film begins, he’s confident, charismatic, and convinced that he’s years ahead of classmates. But as the film goes on, we find the opposite to be true. It’s actually quite humorous how many attempts it takes for Griffin to finally muster the courage to speak to Brad. And this makes sense because he is used to hiding behind masks as a theater kid. It’s that ability to switch masks that prove to be Griffin’s true problem. And ironically, it’s his decision to finally remove them that turns out to be the true litmus test of maturity.


Owen Teague also delivers a wonderful performance as Brad. After a star-studded turn as the lead in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, it’s not only great to see his real face, but the real range of his talents too. Granted, this is also a mostly physical role. Brad doesn’t say much here similar to his character in Kingdom; however, he has such a commanding and mysterious presence that you understand why Griffin is so fascinated by him. Even though there are some hints that he might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, he doesn’t have to be. His body language tells us everything we need to know about who he trusts and how comfortable he is. It’s particularly interesting to see how fluid he is whenever he’s near Griffin as opposed to his girlfriend.


The cast is rounded out by Melanie Lynskey, Abby Ryder Fortson, and Kathryn Newton, the latter of which plays Brad’s girlfriend. Lynskey plays Griffin’s mom, who is clearly struggling to keep things together amidst an inevitable divorce. Ryder Fortson plays Griffin’s best-ish friend, who has recently gotten into a relationship, and is more focused on that than their play during this particular summer. All deliver solid performances, but at the same time they also feel underutilized. Just when it feels like any of them are about to contribute something more meaningful to the story, they disappear. That’s not the only con. 


Towards the center of the film, as Griffin and Brad’s relationship intensifies, it feels as if director Nicholas Colia makes a deliberate choice to focus more on the play. This also happens in the third act, as the audience is forced to watch a concise version of the scenes we’ve seen rehearsed several times already. Perhaps its’ to highlight how the play, and Griffin’s perception of adulthood seems to change due to Brad’s involvement. But it is admittedly bizarre considering that the main focus of the film is the bond between the two, and especially its impact on Griffin. 

Now, no coming of age story is without its rough transitions. While Griffin in Summer is littered with them, none detract from the overall message about the importance of self-acceptance. No relationship is more important than the one you have with yourself. And it isn’t until our titular character realizes that, that he’s able to truly enjoy the break we overlook the most in life: childhood.


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