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Griffin in Summer Review: Familiar but Fun

Two boys stand next to each other in the film Griffin in Summer

Griffin in Summer is a familiar coming-of-age film with a likable cast and a story that could stand to be more confident and less ambiguous.

Director: Nicholas Colia
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Run Time: 90′
Tribeca Premiere: June 6, 2024
Release Date: TBA

Every kid, on one level or another, feels some inexplicable pull towards the older generation. Whether it’s a kindergartner wanting to hang out with the sixth graders, or the middle schoolers finding acceptance amongst the high school seniors, there’s a universal yearning to be seen by your older peers.

Griffin in Summer, the directorial debut of Nicholas Colia (who also wrote the screenplay), portrays one kid’s burgeoning friendship with an older, but not necessarily wiser, adult.

Griffin (Everett Blunck) is an enthusiastic playwright, with a small, but loyal, group of friends and collaborators. He enlists them to perform his new play, a kind of Arthur Miller-esque drama about a marriage in turmoil, but he soon catches the eye of his stepmother’s (Melanie Lynskey, Yellowjackets) summer handyman, Brad (Owen Teague, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes). Besides his dashing bad-boy looks, Brad is everything that’s missing from Griffin’s ho hum suburban life: Brad’s from New York City, where he tried to make it as a performance artist.

The film’s proceedings are fairly familiar, with the expected ups and downs of the coming-of-age genre, but Colia keeps everything moving efficiently. It helps that Blunck and Teague work so well together, but what hurts Griffin in Summer most is a lack of specificity. Blunck has the boyish face of a tween, but his friend, the play’s director, Kara (Abby Ryder Fortson, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret) spends the summer with her boyfriend’s family. Also left a little blurry is the relationship with Griffin and his stepmother, and the same goes for Griffin’s father, who works almost exclusively away from home, but plays a key factor in the third act.

A boy wearing a striped shirt waves in the film Griffin in Summer
Griffin in Summer (Honor Role / 2024 Tribeca Film Festival)

Colia hints at something within Griffin in Summer about a kid who processes the troubles of his personal life by putting them into his artwork, and it’s the film’s saving grace, but it could have been utilized better. As Griffin tangles himself further into Brad’s life – including his jealousy of his girlfriend (Kathryn Newton, Lisa Frankenstein) – he loses sight of the friends who stood by him and supported him. I must admit that this cast of capable, recognizable actors is what initially drew me to Griffin in Summer, and while each performs their parts with more energy required from a low-budget indie, I can’t help but wish they were given better material.

There are enough moments within the film to feel genuine, like Griffin’s confidence in his own sexuality. At no point does anyone bully him for who he is, nor is he mocked for his ideas as a playwright at such a young age. A filmmaker less confident than Colia would likely use these crutches as easy drama, simply for the sake of having drama. His story beats may be familiar, but Colia has a solid enough grasp on the emotions of his characters, and he keeps the film flowing at an easy pace, plus he shows he can handle a large cast of new and familiar faces. If he can be a little more like Griffin and start taking some risks, he’ll be in fine shape going forward.

Griffin in Summer premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 6, 2024. Read our list of 15 films to watch at the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival!

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