All Summers End (2017) follows in the tradition of dramas like Sleepers (1996) wherein the protagonist comes of age while reckoning with the adult consequences of an immature prank or act gone awry. In this instance a sixteen year old boy named Conrad (Tye Sheridan) and his buddies go on a fourth of July joyride stealing lawn ornaments. When Conrad grabs a potted plant from his girlfriend Grace’s (Kaitlyn Dever) porch, her older brother Eric (Beau Mirchoff) takes off in pursuit. As the boys speed away a deer steps out into the road and collides with Eric’s car killing him.
Writer and director Kyle Wilamowski spins his familiar yarn from a moral high ground via bookending scenes and a voice-over throughout from Conrad’s perspective as an adult. The bulk of the movie can be seen as Conrad’s reminiscence à la The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Acts of atonement and guilt are seen by the spectator as current while Conrad’s narration places them in the past tense. This creates a kind of emotional barrier between the viewer and the action on screen that enables the viewer to join the older, adult Conrad in assessing the youthful version of himself.
All Summers End plays the single emotional note of guilt over and over at the cost of any real narrative or moral complexity. The character of Grace, while essential to the narrative, functions as little more than a mirror through which the character of Conrad can gaze upon his own moral reflection. Grace is the device with which Wilamowski probes and explores Conrad’s internal emotional life. Dever is highly affecting in the roll to the extent that she suggests a depth to Grace that the movie itself never bothers to develop.
“Darker” coming of age narratives like All Summers End are a dime a dozen. Some are good, some are inexplicably popular, and most of them are mediocre. All Summers End obviously falls into the latter category. Wilamowski’s refusal to immerse the viewer in the emotional maelstrom of grief, guilt, and first love is the greatest of mistakes. Wilamowski’s reductive techniques take a complex narrative and sugar coat it for day time television consumption.