I’m still surprised there aren’t more gay-themed musicals, but we’ve got a new one with Something Like Summer. It’s not a typical musical, as rather than taking place in a hyper-real world, it tells a story of love and loss that occasionally jumps from the real world to a stage, where the main character breaks into song. It’s an unusual way of doing it, and the first couple of times it’s a little jarring, both because its slightly unexpected and because the musical sequences are quite spaced apart.
However, they’re catchy songs, sung well and after you get used to it, they add real charm to the movie.
Something Like Summer, based on Jay Bell’s popular novel, follows Ben (Grant Davis) over the course of 12 years. It starts when he’s an out gay high school student with a crush on popular jock Tim (Davi Santos). After they literally bump into one another, they start a fledgling relationship. However, Tim is still unsure of his sexuality and wants to stay in the closet, as he’s afraid of what will happen if anyone finds out.
Over the next few years the two men break-up, become enemies, move towards rekindling things and cease all contact. Even when Ben starts a strong and loving relationship with flight attendant Jace (Adulting and Hunting Season’s Ben Baur), what he once had with Tim can’t completely escape them.
Initially, during the high school portion of the movie, Something Like Summer is quite sweet but a little over-familiar. The musical numbers add something we don’t often see, but the plot itself is like many other coming-of-age stories. However, once it’s moved past that it becomes more interesting as Ben grows both into his sexuality and his life beyond his school days. As it charts his relationship with Jace, and Tim’s interventions into it, there’s a genuinely heartfelt edge to the story that ensures that you care what’s going to happen to these people.
There are admittedly moments when it dips a little too far towards melodrama, and at nearly two hours long it does sometimes threaten to outstay its welcome. However, these are minor gripes for a film that is mostly sweet and rather charming.
It’s aided by a good central performance from Grant Davis, who brings a real sense on empathy to Ben and his situation, particularly his sense of earnestness and enthusiasm. He’s also got the musical chops to pull off the songs, which help take us into the thoughts and emotions of the characters (although a couple of the tunes are a little random, it has to be said). The whole thing is done with the type of sincerity that it’s difficult not to find appealing.
There’s a wistfulness and almost a sense of nostalgia to the movie. While it’s all told in the present tense, there’s undoubtedly a sense of remembrance. It’s largely due to a real feeling for the pain and pleasure of youth, first love, coming of age and realising what’s really important in life, told in a way that suggests there’s a knowing, older wisdom at work behind-the-scenes. Ben is a character many of us will relate to, especially if you’re ever tempted to break into song.
Overall Verdict: A sweet, sincere and charming look at a young gay man coming of age. The way its musical numbers work may take a little getting used to, but the catchy ditties help add to what is an endearing growing up tale.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac