Not every teen romance catches the blend of exuberance and awkwardness of youth with as much as authenticity as this film. Set in Turkey, Last Summer watches its characters experiment with alcohol and sex without judging them for it. When they come to a new level of maturity at the end of summer, we believe it.
The film shows this innocence and growth in ways both obvious -- siblings forgoing a final night of partying for a last family dinner -- and symbolic, like Deniz stripping off a scab once and for all. The lead actors, particularly those playing Deniz and Asli, are totally credible as teens figuring out who they are. In one perceptive scene, they both say their only wish for when they grow up is to not be like their parents.
Deniz's mindless habit of stacking random items he finds and balancing them on each other feels symbolic as well of his figuring out what he can and cannot control in life. When their dad offers his middle-aged wisdom that there is "always something to discover" as you grow up, it feels like a summary of the story being told here. The teen years are indeed full of angst and mischief, but they mostly end happily.
It could be lost on non-local audiences why the film is set in 1997 because the story feels relevant and contemporary, minus cell phones, and the seaside summer setting is both beautiful and a perfect backdrop for this coming-of-age tale of freedom and growth.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.