By: Gabrielle Bondi
Summer is usually dominated by huge action thrillers or superhero movies. And I love those movies (well… most of them). But what many may not know is the good amount of independent films that release between May and August. They may not get as much publicity as the big blockbusters, but several of them are still worth seeking out. Last year’s Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom were summer releases and are exceptional examples of how enthralling independent film can be.
So take a break from all the explosions, 3D and sound effects this summer to check out these ten movies (in order of release date). Please keep in mind that most of these films are limited releases, if you don’t live in a major city, it may take a while for it to hit your local theater.
1. Before Midnight – May 24th
Celeste and Jesse are back and better than ever…? As far as their relationship is concerned, I don’t want to spoil you. But having seen the movie, I can say that Before Midnight is the best movie of Before Sunrise trilogy yet. It’s an honest look at a couple in their 40s. Just like the previous films, everything in this movie rings wonderfully and achingly true. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are at their finest, maturing into their characters so marvelously. If you haven’t watched Before Sunrise and Before Sunset yet, you are missing out on one of the most romantic trilogies to have ever graced the screen.
2. The Kings of Summer – May 31st
What’s summer without a few coming of age films? This is the first COA film on the list and one to see! This film follows as three teenage boys decide to run away and live in the forest. The Kings of Summer shifts between a dark and comedic tone well, although there are instances when the transitions aren’t too smooth. Still, the three boys are played by young talents Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias. They more than hold their own, especially Arias who plays his oddball character without being too gimmicky. Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally also star as the boys’ parents and are one of the best things about this movie.
3. The Bling Ring – June 14th
Since I heard that Sofia Coppola was making a movie about the group of teenagers who robbed celebrities’ homes, I was excited. If anyone who can make a movie based on that and make it good, it’s definitely Coppola. Emma Watson stars in the movie, a true departure from her previous work; it’ll be great to see her show off some versatility.
4. I’m So Excited – June 28th
I’m so excited for I’m So Excited. Acclaimed director Pedro Almodóvar is back with what looks like a joyously entertaining film about a group of people on an airplane facing a dangerous situation. Just watch the fun teaser and tell me that it doesn’t put a smile on your face.
5. The Way, Way Back – July 3rd
Here’s the second coming of age story on the list. With a cast like this, which includes Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Maya Rudolph and Sam Rockwell, I’m pretty much sold. The Way, Way Back follows Duncan as he comes into his own one summer where he meets new people and develops the courage to talk to a girl and stand up for himself. The film won praise at Sundance, and from what the trailer shows, it looks like a great little summer movie to check it.
6. Fruitvale Station – July 12th
This is my most anticipated indie release of the whole summer. Getting exceptional praise and wins at this year’s Sundance, Fruitvale Station might be that summer indie film that will ride all the way to Oscar season. I hear it’s that good. Fruitvale Station tells the true story of 22-year-old Oscar’s last day, New Year’s Eve 2008. You see him interact with his family, friends, strangers and even enemies and learn about the kind of person he was. The film has the talented Michael B. Jordan in a breakout performance. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, and Melonie Diaz also star. Written and directed by Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station is THE movie to see this summer.
7. The Hunt – July 12th
Mads Mikkelsen, who you can now see on NBC’s fantastic new show Hannibal, won acclaim for his work in The Hunt. He plays an innocent man, who is condemned by what begins as a small little lie. It’s definitely not an easy role to play, and from the trailer, it looks like Mikkelsen shows some of his best work ever. Besides his performance, the film does look very interesting.
8. Only God Forgives – July 19th
Ryan Gosling and Nicholas Winding Refn team up again for the violent thriller, Only God Forgives. If you’ve seen Drive, you know how masterful the work these two can create. From the wild and awesomely edited trailer, Only God Forgives looks to be a great follow-up to Drive.
9. Blue Jasmine – July 26th
How can I not put Woody Allen’s new movie on this list? I may not have been as enraptured by his last film, To Rome with Love, as I was with the magical Midnight in Paris, but I’m looking forward to his next film. The plot is still undisclosed for Blue Jasmine, and there’s no trailer yet. All we know is that it’s set in San Francisco and Cate Blanchett, Peter Sarsgaard, Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K. and many more will star in the film.
10. The Spectacular Now – August 2nd
This is the last coming of age story of the list and the one that I can easily say is the most unique. Based off Tim Tharp’s book, the film follows Sutter Keely, a high school senior and party guy. Sutter loves to have fun, live in the moment, and when he meets Amy, a girl brought down by her family and responsibilities, he makes it his purpose to help her stand up for herself and go after what she wants. The director, James Ponsoldt, who directed last year’s Smashed, revisits the topic of alcoholism again in The Spectacular Now with as much realism and sensitivity as he did before. It isn’t an easy watch but still a fascinating look at a character like Sutter. Miles Teller turns in a great performance as Sutter, and Shailene Woodley continues to prove that she’s one of the best young actresses in Hollywood right now. If you’re a fan of Divergent, there is no doubt that this movie is a must-see. Or if you have no idea what Divergent is, but want to watch a raw, unique, and resonating coming of age story, The Spectacular Now is your best bet.
Honorable Mentions: The English Teacher (5/17), Frances Ha (5/17), Stories We Tell (5/17), The East (5/31), Violet & Daisy (6/7), Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (8/16).