Last year, Molly Gordon & Nick Lieberman’s “Theater Camp” took a deep dive into the world of theatre geeks. It explored their seemingly pretentious lives without mocking them. However, it didn’t focus on just one character and followed the geeks largely as a collective. Nicholas Colia’s “Griffin in Summer,” which aptly captures the geeky eccentricity and enthusiasm for the theatre, is its spiritual successor. But instead of following a trainwreck led by ex-theatre kids, it follows a young and budding playwright hoping to break into the professional realm.

“Griffin in Summer” is about Griffin (Everett Blunck), a precocious adolescent kid passionate about theatre to a fault. Despite being barely in his early teens, he has a clear idea of how to present his play. He is exceptionally picky about minute details and criticizes his cast like he is a professional playwright with an illustrious career. Overall, his affectation feels oddly charming because his passion oozes from his every expectation and reaction. He lives with his single mother, Helen (Melanie Lynskey), while his father is mostly out of the picture.

Griffin is not visibly bothered by his dysfunctional family dynamic. However, he writes a play about a couple that is on the verge of separation. The husband is a cheater, and the wife is an alcoholic. For a teenager, these themes seem overtly dark and adult. Regardless, Griffin seems assured in his voice and its depiction. During the summer vacation, he wants to work on it with his friends. However, he expects his cast to understand their psyche as well as he does, which irritates them. His close friend & play’s director (Abby Ryder Fortson) is sensitive towards his demands even though he rejects most of her suggestions.

The other castmates, Winnie (Johanna Colon), Pam (Alivia Bellamy), and Tyler (Gordon Rocks), aren’t as quick as Griffin to understand the complexity of adult relationships. While struggling to bring his vision to life, Griffin meets Brad (Owen Teague), a performance artist from his town, who returned from New York after failing to grow his career in the Big Apple. Unlike Griffin’s same-age friends, who fail to understand the core of his script, Brad admires Griffin’s writing skills and points out what he appreciates. So, probably for the first time, Griffin feels seen and heard by a fellow artist, who is also ignored and underappreciated by those around him.

Griffin in Summer (2024) ‘Tribeca’ Movie Review
A still from “Griffin in Summer” (2024)

Even though the film is about a teenager trying to fulfill his dream, it covers some tricky subjects that could have easily gone off the rails in less capable hands. Through Griffin’s coming-of-age arc, the film explores love, jealousy, heartbreak, and separation and shows it through his eyes and experience. Like any other impressionable kid, he picks up on things around him or that he is exposed to in order to make sense of these new, unexplored emotions.

Griffin naively looks at the world and hopes his life will be like an arc from a play. So, he expects things to work out a certain way he envisioned in his mind. The issue is while writing a fictional narrative, he can mould a character any way he wants to have an ending he hopes to see. The reality rarely works that way. At the complicated age of puberty, Griffin goes through an experience of sexual awakening. The script, written by Colia, understands the oddness of these experiences from the remote perspective as opposed to the sheer wonder from a kid’s subjective experience. It allows Griffin to have a clumsy arc of experiencing these inexplicable emotions without letting it veer into any problematic depiction. Colia’s direction triumphantly walks on that tightrope to offer a thoroughly charming experience.

Despite exploring heavier themes, “Griffin in Summer” is thoroughly hilarious. It derives humor from Griffin’s antics without letting the humor be insensitive. Colia’s directorial approach values innocence, compassion, and nuance over an overt expression of teenage angst. Speaking about the performances, Everett Blunck marvelously portrays the co-existence of awkwardness and eccentricity in Griffin’s character. He outshines even a seasoned actor like Melanie Lynskey and makes it impossible not to fall in love with the film.

Griffin in Summer is part of the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival.

Griffin in Summer (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Letterboxd
The Cast of Griffin in Summer (2024) Movie: Everett Blunck, Owen Teague, Melanie Lynskey, Abby Ryder Fortson, Alivia Bellamy, Kathryn Newton, Johanna Colón, Michael Esper, Francine Berk, Ian Hernandez-Oropeza, Gabriel J Perez, Gordon Rocks, Aurora Richards, Xavier Wolf
Griffin in Summer (2024) Movie Genre: Comedy | Runtime: 1h 30m

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