Summertime is a poetic love letter to Los Angeles written on paper pulped from the pain of growing up. Director Carlos López Estrada (Blindspotting and Raya and the Last Dragon) captures 25 intersecting lives across a single day in L.A., a day that operates on the heightened logic of dreams that the city produces but for the most part never fulfills.
Each character has their own heartbreaks and troubles, which they express in the form of poetry. Tyris (Tyris Winter) just wants to find a good hamburger somewhere in a town that seems ever-changing; Gordon (Gordon Ip) wants to get out of the dead-end job that ties him down; Marquesha (Marquesha Babers) wants to move on from a past pain … and so on and so on and so on, through a wonderful cast of talented performers who lock down every moment they’re given. Each of the performers acted as co-writers on the film.
The sheer scope of the stories told with such efficiency is breathtaking. Although Summertime is a “day in the life” movie that follows so many lives, none of these characters feels shortchanged or, more importantly, stereotypical. The poetry is so effective and engaging that somehow a 90-minute film with 25 characters feels fleeting. Most importantly, it utilizes its excellent editing and pacing to capture stories about a very diverse group of young performers.
Thankfully it never feels self-involved or, well, pretentious, as is the concern with many films about young people. Do I sound like an old grump? I hope not. American culture loves youth because the young feel, love and hate the hardest, and they also scream the loudest.
Summertime won me over from the start. Los Angeles is the backdrop for so much of our nation’s collective consciousness. But like any place, pinning down what makes it special, and what makes its people special, is a herculean task that can come off as contrived. This film shouts with the loud love of youth — a complicated, messy, exuberant love for a place where it feels like anything can happen, even if the hardest “anything” is learning to love yourself in a time where the world doesn’t seem to love you back.
There is something electrifying about seeing a film so confident in its mission and so successful in accomplishing it. Summertime is captivating from start to finish, filled with new names who will hopefully go far. A pure creative vision.
Extras on this release include a making-of documentary, audio commentary with the director and cast, and a feature about poetry with Kelly Marie Tran.