A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Strong friendship themes, as well as bravery, curiosity, determination, and teamwork. The importance of honest communication between parents and kids is also depicted. But there's also negative/iffy behavior without consequences.
Positive Role Models
Eleven-year-old girls act in a courageous, curious, and determined way, working together as a team to solve a mystery. But they also lie to their parents, keep their discovery to themselves, and make other iffy decisions (like breaking into their elementary school and visiting a bar). One does try to get her friends to stop and tell their parents the truth. The moms are concerned and communicate to find and help their daughters.
The main foursome includes two Black girls and two White girls. The characters are all middle class; one girl has a single mother and a missing father. Representation of intelligent and courageous tween girls.
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Violence & Scariness
The main characters find a dead body. The corpse is shown multiple times. The girls move the body and reposition it. One girl takes and uses her mother's gun to shoot off a lock. Discussion of suicide or possible foul play.
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Occasional language includes "s--t," "holy s--t," "Jesus," "stupid," "sucks," "screwed," "weird," "nerd." A mother makes a vague allusion to the fact that her husband/the girl's father is having his "after dinner ___" (could be interpreted as going to the bathroom or having a smoke).
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Products & Purchases
A family watches Wheel of Fortune. References to Law & Order. A girl has what looks like an iPhone.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The girls visit a bar where adults drink. A character jokes, "sugar is cocaine to 11-year-olds."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Summering is a Stand by Me-like drama about four 11-year-old girls who find a dead body the summer before starting middle school. Although there's much less violence, language, and suggestive humor than in that 1986 classic, it's still a potentially disturbing storyline. Preteens make iffy decisions regarding a corpse, and there's an upsetting moment when one girl unexpectedly wields a gun to shoot at a lock. The main characters lie to their parents and break into a school after hours so that they can keep solving the mystery together. Expect occasional strong language, including "s--t," "Jesus," "stupid," "sucks," "weird," "crazy," and "nerd." The girls visit a bar where adults drink, and there's a mature subplot about one of them having a father who's missing or walked out on the family. Families may want to talk about the movie's coming-of-age themes, as well as the importance of honest communication between parents and kids. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This indie tween friendship drama shows early potential, but the uneven tone and unrealistic plot twists dampen its impact. There's a lot to enjoy about the "tweens on a mission" storyline, a plot that audiences have been drawn to for decades. Whether it's in Stand by Me, which Summering seems like an homage to, or Stranger Things, it's easy to root for a group of preteens solving a mystery, even when they consistently engage in risky, age-inappropriate behavior. But while writer-director James Ponsoldt and co-writer Benjamin Percy accurately capture some of the feelings of being a tween girl, the dialogue is inconsistent, as are the girls' character arcs. The movie also tries to be both lighthearted and tear-jerkingly realistic, as with Daisy's backstory of a checked-out single mom (Lake Bell) who's mourning after the loss of (or the abandonment by) her husband. There are references to substance use and a startlingly upsetting (and contrived) scene between a sobbing Daisy and parent. One moment the girls are joking or trying to accomplish a goal together, and the next there's a literal gunshot. It just doesn't work the way the filmmakers intended.
Plus with four girls, a dead body, four moms, and a runtime of a little less than 90 minutes, there's not enough nuance available for each girl. Brief exchanges tell rather than show how different their personalities are. For example, Dina is logical and science-based, while Lola believes in spirituality and the afterlife. Ponsoldt did a lovely job with the adaptations of The Spectacular Now and The End of the Tour, so it's disappointing that Summering doesn't live up to those standards. But the four child actors deserve a shout-out for doing their best with the material. Hopefully they'll all be cast in more coming-of-age films in the future, but Summering, for all of its credentials, falls flat of expectations.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.