It’s weird when a movie comes out and you can easily tell that it was shot several years prior to its release date. Generally speaking, it’s easiest to tell when it features younger actors in important roles who have since gone on to do other things as older people. Seeing them de-age, in effect, is kind of jarring. Such is the case with All Summers End, which features Tye Sheridan and Kaitlyn Dever in the lead roles, both looking much younger than in other recent roles.
They play young lovers who meet at the start of the summer and spend much of it together. He’s Conrad, a dumb teenage boy who hangs out with degenerate friends. She’s Grace, the sweet girl next door. They have obvious chemistry and enjoy one another’s company. Early on, her brother, Eric (Beau Mirchoff), dies after hitting a deer with his car … because he was chasing Conrad and his dumb friends after they played a prank on him. The teenagers decide to flee the scene, where a still-alive Eric may have been able to be saved. He keeps this from her, of course, and spends the rest of the film guilty about it.
All Summers End wallows in despair. It acts as the text or the subtext of nearly every scene. Even the “happy” ones see a character with very conflicted emotions, due in large part to the circumstances surrounding Eric’s death. Conrad gets close with Grace and her parents and grows further apart from his mother, but the latter isn’t allowed to become a truly “good” thing because of Conrad’s guilt and their sadness, while the latter is too underdeveloped to have much impact on the overall film.
Basically, we’re here to watch the budding romance between these teenagers, as well as anticipating its inevitable trials and tribulations once Grace learns the big secret Conrad has been harboring from her. And that’s … fine. It doesn’t go down any path you haven’t seen and it goes in pretty much the direction you’d anticipate—especially because of its framing device, which sees an older Conrad narrating our tale. But the actors have chemistry and their relationship feels real enough.
What does it need? A less predictable plot would help. A brief amount of time when it’s allowed to be truly uplifting would be nice, although it’s admittedly not a necessity. Having its subplots play more of a crucial role, rather than be tertiary distractions, would make it feel like more of a full, rounded movie. And while the romance is believable enough, the central characters are pretty two-dimensional—and the supporting cast isn’t even that developed.
All that leads to All Summers End being a mediocre but not unwatchable movie about two teenagers falling in love while holding onto grief and guilt—and a secret that could, potentially, ruin the only good thing going for them. It’s a moderately successful romance that might be too singularly focused on that single element, making its subplots and supporting characters feel like they were tacked on, rather than integral pieces of the picture. It’s predictable and not terribly deep, but the acting is solid and it looks pretty good. There are better things, but there are even more that are far worse.
Conclusion: Secrets are bad, and All Summers End is okay.
Recommendation: All Summers End is a sappy teen romance that might not feel like a fully developed film, but it’s an okay watch.