The Kings of Summer ★★★★

Growing up is hard. Parents, friends and the opposite sex - all relationships in flux as we enter our teenage years. It's messy, often absurd, and not without major revelations.

The Kings of Summer is a film exploring these relationships, and what it means to stake a claim on a part of life - a place in the world that's just for you, a destiny that you are in control of. It explores all of this with a fresh voice, equal parts absurdist comedy and sincere drama, and does it both poetically and honestly.

Convincingly awkward and hopelessly optimistic Joe (Nick Robsinson), his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and off-beat tag-along Biaggio (Moises Arias) demonstrate the strength and fragility of teenage bonds as they build their own idea of paradise in the woods, free of their parents and the demands of society. Meanwhile, their families (including fantastically odd-ball performances by Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally) obliviously push them further away. It's in these relationships that there's real humanity - the superficiality of their comic relief belies what I felt was a very honest exploration of the ridiculousness of parental ideals and social norms. These relationships are exaggerated here, sure, but doesn't every teenager feel like his familial obligations are absurd, that the friendships he has fostered are sometimes a bond more solid than they could possibly be, and that the world revolves around their very hopes and dreams?

In this context, the world of The Kings of Summer is a thematic representation of teenage discovery, and not a literal exploration of coming-of-age. This isn't Stand By Me.

Rife with beautiful imagery and a moving soundtrack, it's a film that gets serious as it approaches its climax, but manages to balance it with levity and genuineness.