SXSW Review: Hot Summer Nights
As the debut of writer and director Elijah Bynum, Hot Summer Nights is a coming of age story that is much darker than most. When Daniel (played by Timothée Chalamet) is forced to live with his aunt over the summer he expects it to be a little dull and nothing spectacular but instead he finds himself swept into the darkest and most thrilling adventure of his life.
It is the summer of Cape Cod in 1991, Daniel finds himself working a boring cashier job just stuck in the in between – he's not a “summer bird” who are the rich kids that visit the cape in the summer, but he's not a townie, he's just himself. He seems to not mind spending time alone at the drive in movie or working but his life definitely isn't fulfilling, at least not until he meets Hunter and McKayla Strawberry. Hunter (played by Alex Roe) is a small down drug dealer who sells pot to the summer birds and McKayla (played by Maika Monroe) is his sister and the prettiest girl on the cape. McKayla doesn't speak to Hunter as she doesn't approve of his so-called career.
After doing Hunter a favor, Daniel ends up helping Hunter with his business and develops a fling with McKayla. Daniel has money and the girl, but nothing good lasts forever as they find their small town pot business grows into something that nobody can handle.
While there are some questionable decisions in the script – like a very odd choice for the narrator and involving a storm to essentially not only darken the tone of the movie but also the look of the film – the performances are pretty impressive. Relative newcomer Chalamet is very charismatic and seemingly genuine in the film even when the story gives him a greedy twist towards the end. Roe is encompasses the bad boy you can't help but root for, his character has most depth and the greatest arc out of everyone and he performs it with ease. Monroe never disappoints even when she plays McKayla who's a sad pretty girl who copes with the death of her mother by sleeping around with the garbage young men of Cape Cod.
Overall, while it is not perfect, it proves that this may be the start of an impressive film career for Elijah Bynum.