It is easy to be dismissive and contemptuous about teen-campus flicks. Films about shallow preoccupations presume the characters indulging in them, to be shallow. Worse still, those filmmakers who direct films about superficial youngsters are presumed to be shallow too.
But “The Last Summer” is ample proof of just how much constructive thought goes into creating a film about youngsters obsessed with matters of the bed rather than the head.
Or maybe, that’s not quite the character-chart that this far-more-clever-than-it-seems film pertains to traverse. There is a bright, sensitive student-filmmaker in the film — Phoebe (played by Maia Mitchell) who talks about great art, great filmmakers and… well, just great artistes. Oddly, she doesn’t seem like an oddball in this film about carnal desires and over-the-top emotions.
Perhaps the trick that the director William Bindley adopts is to not judge the characters — all 1023 of them. I mean, there are so many teenagers in groups and in pairs (which let me warn you, keep changing as the narrative gathers speed) swarming the storytelling canvas that I found it difficult to keep track of who’s who and who’s doing what to whom.
And really, after a point, all teenagers on a hormonal high look the same. “The Last Summer” doesn’t wag a disapproving finger at the characters’ facile follies. True, the fast-moving script barely gets a chance to enter a life before it restlessly moves to another. The overall effect is that of watching the landscape from a speeding train: exhilarating, but leaves you craving for more.
While some of the characters, like the self-appointed stud Foster (Wolfgang Novagratz) who has drawn up a list of the girls he wants to score with, or Erin (Halston Sage) who dumps her loyal boyfriend for a fling with a star-athlete, are clearly way out of line, the film never allows us the space to judge them.
My favourite among the myriad youngsters yearning to find Good Time (in capitals) is Audrey (Sosie Bacon) who struggles to get into a good college, and while babysitting for a little girl whose ambitious mother wants her to get into reality TV, discovers her own métier through the most unlikely of friendships.
The bonding between the babysitter and her (sort of) adopted baby sister has the potential to be an independent movie. Submerged in the folds of this bustling restless on-the-move film is a soul that craves to be released.
If only the music was not so loud.
- By Subhash K. Jha, IANS