SUMMERING (Sundance FF 2022) – Review by Lauren Anderson
Summering is one of the most nostalgia-inducing films that premiered at Sundance 2022. Set in the present day (one of the girls mentions TikTok), James Ponsoldt’s Summering encapsulates the angst of the precious dwindling moments of summer through the lens of four girls headed for middle school.
The movie follows Daisy (Lia Barnett), whose father abandoned the family, Dina (Madalen Mills), the bookworm of the group, the ever-moralistic Mari (Eden Grace Redfield), and Lola (Sanai Victoria), the group’s spiritual moon child. With only a few days left in their summer break, the girls have a lot on their minds: will their friendships withstand the test of time? Which of them, if any, will become a mean girl in middle school? Will they make it out of middle school alive?
As part of a ritual that’s sacred to their friendship, the foursome visits a small tree decorated with childhood artifacts in a place they deem Terabithia. There, they find a dead man’s body. From then on, the movie becomes about figuring out who this man was, each girl projecting their fears, hopes, and dreams into the case. They interview local bartenders, break into the library, and even destroy Mari’s cell phone to protect their secret. Daisy is the most taken with the case of the mysterious dead man. For her, figuring out who this man was might help her figure out why her father decided to up and leave his family one day.
As the girls become entrenched with this murder mystery, their parents are seldom concerned with their whereabouts, sans Mari’s “helicopter mother” (Megan Mullally). The women eventually unite in Summering‘s climax, only for Daisy to call her mom (Lake Bell) and ask to have a sleepover, which Laura allows despite not hearing from her daughter for hours.
There aren’t many twists and turns in Summering, aside from the penultimate moment in the movie that makes you wonder if the mystery man’s body was ever really there. Instead, Ponsoldt and co-writer Benjamin Percy used it as a storytelling mechanism to drive each girl’s narrative, however blasé, along. In the end, Daisy, Dina, Mari, and Lola make a pact to remain friends forever, a small but nostalgic ping to the heart that made me feel like I should pick up the phone and call my own.