A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Summer '03 is a nostalgic but mature coming-of-age comedy in which a 16-year-old girl named Jamie (Joey King), spurred by her grandmother's dying words, embarks on a clumsy journey of sexual exploration. Expect strong sexual themes and content throughout (Jamie becomes fascinated with trying oral sex, a young girl loses her virginity, and there's a mostly silhouetted demonstration of oral sex on an object), but no graphic nudity. Frequent strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," sexual descriptions, anti-Semitic epithets, and more. There's also lots of teen drinking and partying, including keg stands, and a mom self-medicates with alcohol. Andrea Savage and Oscar nominee June Squibb co-star.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
For 16-year-old Jamie (Joey King), SUMMER '03 in suburban Cincinnati is spun on its axis when her spiteful grandmother (June Squibb) drops a series of verbal bombs from her deathbed. As Jamie's family deals with the fallout, Jamie embarks on a clumsy journey of sexual exploration involving young priest-to-be Luke (Jack Kilmer) and good-guy classmate March (Stephen Ruffin).
Is it any good?
This nostalgic coming-of-age comedy is quite funny and well cast, and freshman writer-director Becca Gleason has a knack for evocative images and details. Summer '03 revels in the humor of inappropriateness, starting with Grandma's sweetly intoned parting shots involving anti-Semitism, homophobia, insensitively revealed secrets, and what amounts to a sexual dare to a 16-year-old girl. Yes, it's a comedy. And we watch Jamie grow up, one mistake at a time. We cringe at her poor choices and stumbles, but Gleason and King make each one understandable. The film feels rooted in a specific time and place. Gleason and cinematographer Ben Hardwicke catch moments that seem stolen from memory, such as a dark-night ride on the back of a bike or seconds of peace below the surface of a pool. That solid footing in reality makes the film's more farcical elements play even more effectively.
The cast is well chosen, with Oscar nominee Squibb sprinkling just enough sugar on her poison and Ruffin effective as the nice guy we're hoping isn't doomed to finish last. And it's a delightful showcase for veteran actress Andrea Savage as Jamie's put-upon, self-medicating mother. In one of her best roles so far, Savage steals scenes with her wine-drinking, still-caring incredulity as simply ridiculous things happen to her family. Jamie, meanwhile, has her misadventures. But, refreshingly, they're not the end of the world for this teenage girl who's just figuring it all out. Smarter and more heartfelt than the average teen sex comedy, Summer '03 is a promising feature debut for Gleason.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the sexuality in Summer '03. Did it feel gratuitous or necessary to the story? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
What did you think of the parents' actions? Did they seem like good parents? Why or why not?
For kids who love stories about teens
Our editors recommend
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch