All Summers End may not know where it wants to begin, but it’s a memorable journey through repentance and youthful maturity.
Writer/director Kyle Wilamowski displays how overt masculinity has represented men, and how sensitivity was seen as a sign of weakness in earlier times. 16-year-old Conrad Stevens (Tye Sheridan) experiences this first-hand as his mischievous buddies Tim (Ryan Lee) and Hunter (Austin Abrams) puff out their chests, and the family of Conrad’s girlfriend Grace (Kaitlyn Dever) allow the men to be more vocal. This observation on gender slips to the back burner as soon as Conrad is an accomplice to a deadly accident that will affect Grace. Supremely distraught, Conrad suppresses the truth as Grace confides in him for support. The grieving process, however, educates Conrad on emotions, and how being more receptive to those feelings doesn’t make him less strong.
It’s very easy to be invested in the melodrama, a plot that’s been heavily influenced by the coming-of-age work of Rob Reiner (Stand By Me, Flipped). Tye Sheridan (last seen as a prolific action hero in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One earlier this year) is very good at dialling-down and channeling his early indie work to play a likeable and relatable teen. The rest of the cast pulls their own weight successfully, using their screen time efficiently to make a lasting impression. Especially Austin Abrams, whose Hunter is the bully of the teenage pals. He has a subtle arc that turns the nuisance into an identifiable kid. As for Wilamowski, he shows plenty of potential as a filmmaker who is open-minded towards his actors and sincere towards a story’s emotions.
All Summers End is an impressive debut for the conscientious storyteller, and it will be a sleeper hit with audiences.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie