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The Kings of Summer gets Sundance off to a bright start

Posted on by Janet Awe
The Kings Of Summer (© Cleveland Film)

Patrick (Gabriel Basso), Biaggio (Moises Arias) & Joe (Nick Robinson) – The Kings Of Summer (© Cleveland Film)

I’m excited that the Sundance London Film and Music Festival has finally arrived for its second year. I totally missed this homage to independent film makers when it was here last year and I’m determined to make up for it now. So far, so very, very good. Yesterday, the festival kicked off with a film so lovely, there can never be too many clichés used to describe it. The Kings of Summer is the Stand By Me of 2013.  A feel good, coming-of-age movie with such great characters and dialogue it had me laughing out loud throughout. It’s the story of two 15-year old best friends, Joe and Patrick, who are tormented by their insanely annoying parents. Their summer and lives are changed when Joe and hanger-on, Biaggio, stumble across a beautiful clearing in the woods. It proves to be the perfect plot of land for them to build their own, adult-free house on – providing an escape from their families and setting them on the road to independence and manhood.

Scriptwriter, Chris Galletta, has crafted a wonderful story – touching, funny and full of quirky, random moments. Some elements are so random that they could have fallen flat but director Jordan Vogt-Roberts pulls it all together brilliantly, with the help of his outstanding cast and crew. The subsequent Q&A gave a nice insight into the filmmaking process, including revealing that one shot where a tree falls down in the woods – which I had taken to be symbolic -was actually the work of Mother Nature. There was a powercut on their outdoor set, a moment of panic while lighting was restored – and then the tree started to fall. Totally unplanned but luckily caught on film by the quick-thinking director of photography.

Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias are cast perfectly as the three teenage boys. While icing on the cake is provided by the adults, who include the fabulous Megan Mullally (Karen Walker in Will and Grace) and Nick Offerman (who, coincidently, is married to her!).  The great chemistry between the actors helps deliver excellent performances all around. The Kings of Summer is the very definition of heartwarming and a film I’ll definitely want to add to my collection. In the meantime, catch it on the big screen while you can. It’s on again on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th. If you can get to the 02 in London, don’t miss it.

Best, at Sundance London

Best, at Sundance London

And while you’re at Sundance, be sure to check out the short films package. 8,000 shorts were submitted to the original Sundance Festival in the US. Only 65 made it onto the Festival programme and from those, only 9 have been brought to the UK – guaranteeing that we’re seeing the cream of the crop. Additionally, Sundance London ran an online competition for one filmmaker to have their short added to the programme, meaning we’re lucky enough to see 10 great shorts in one go. That online winner  – a film called Best, by William Oldroyd, based on a play by Adam Brace – was my favourite by far. An unexpected insight into the life of a man about to get married, it’s a great example of less-is-more – a powerful story, covering an important issue in a light-hearted way. And told in less than three minutes.

Other shorts that stood out include The Date – a humorous tale about pedigree cats being set up to mate – and Irish Folk Furniture – an animated documentary that traces the history of family heirlooms as they’re being reconditioned and returned to their homes. Overall, the programme of shorts features many beautifully shot, intelligent stories from around the world, that are innovative, thought-provoking and funny.

My only disappointment so far is that that the Q&As I saw after the films focused primarily on the directors. I say, let’s get some screenwriters up on stage. After all, no matter how brilliant the director is, without the script there’d be nothing to make.

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