What a summer to be alive. Or not.
It’s the summer of 1984 in a small, relatively close-knit suburb and it’s expected to be a memorable one with fun, sun, and lots of horsing-around. But that all goes away when a local kid goes missing and no one really know what the hell happened. Was it an outside person? Did he run away? Is he alive? Is he not? Just who the hell was responsible for this heinous crime? Well, Davey Armstrong (Graham Verchere) has a theory: It’s cop McKay (Rich Summer). Why does he think this? Well, for one, Davey saw the boy in McKay’s house before he went missing. Therefore, it already got his suspicion running wild, so he decided to spy on him for a few days, gathering all sorts of weird and sketchy evidence that he could pick up on. But while he thinks he may have solved it, trying to convince those around him of the same findings is already going to be a whole other battle entirely.
It’s obvious that Summer of 84 does not look very good in the shades of Stranger Things, but it certainly tries. The nostalgia isn’t over-the-top, the clothes aren’t that tacky, and the characters aren’t obvious. However, there’s just something missing here that makes that show work as well as it does, and that just so happens to be a narrative-drive.
While it’s interesting that Summer of 84 basically starts off by giving us a large clue of what the central mystery is, the movie still feels like an hour-and-a-half-long slog of the inevitable. We basically know who the bad guy is, the why doesn’t matter, and we sort of don’t care. And when that’s usually the case with movies, you’d think that there would be a little something extra to help make up for the lack in originality and general surprises, but nope.
Summer of 84, mostly, remains a bit of a stale-mate that never fully takes off, despite a few inspired bits of direction.
Co-directors François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell have a clear love and respect for these kinds of coming-of-age movies from the 80’s and at times, you almost wish Summer of 84 played around more with the decade. However, as it is, it remains a movie about a bunch of young punks growing up, cursing, drinking, smoking, farting, and trying to get girls. It should be a lot more fun and exciting than it actually is, and that’s mostly because these characters feel like types and carbon-copies of what we’ve seen before. There’s always the geeky one, the rebel one, the chunky one, and the one who always curses.
It’s basically Stand By Me, but without any of that charm. Or love. Or appreciation.
Instead, it’s a movie that slowly, and not too surely, waddles to its end, where we have an idea of what’s going to happen and it’s totally hard to care. These characters just don’t work, the mystery isn’t all that mysterious, and the decade, well, feels like it’s wasted. Despite the land-lines and obvious other disappearances of modern-technology, Summer of 84 didn’t need to take place in that year, nor did it really need to be made.
So instead, just watch Stranger Things.
Consensus: As a nostalgic-trip, Summer of 84 fails, but as a mystery, it hardly even registers.
3 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Gunpowder & Sky