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Young Poets Shine in “Summertime” (Review)

In the spring of 2019, Carlos López Estrada (“Blindspotting”) attended a poetry showcase hosted by a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization called Get Lit: Words Ignite.

He was so inspired by the young poets who performed that he rounded up all of them and worked with some of his closest filmmaking friends to put to a project together that would incorporate their words into a functional feature film to serve as a love letter to the city.

The end result effortlessly manages to merge spoken word poetry with occasionally bombastic musical numbers featuring a host of intersecting characters into a cohesive timeline over the course of one summer day.

I can’t say enough good things about these performances, all from high school poets who were not professional actors. You would never know it from watching and I will not be surprised if we see several breakout stars come from this.

It almost feels unfair to single folks out because this is such an ensemble effort, but there are two major standouts here.

You can’t take your eyes off of Tyris Winter, who laments menu changes at a local restaurant in an outstanding piece and continues on throughout the film on the hunt to find a good cheeseburger.

Additionally, with a heartfelt doorstep monologue delivered to a guy who casually mocked and dismissed her, Marquesha Babers is simply breathtaking.

Estrada began his career by directing music videos and has worked with the likes of Thundercat, Father John Misty, and Billie Eilish. It seems safe to say that those experiences helped inform this production where a normal scene setup can easily turn from simple dialogue into the frame filling up with dancers performing a fully choreographed piece on a busy street.

“Summertime” is wildly original and a genuinely joyous experience. I don’t want to sound like a cliché, but I promise that you have never seen anything quite like this before. Take a chance and catch it on the big screen while you can.

“Summertime” debuts exclusively in theaters this weekend in New York and Los Angeles (including Q&A screenings with Q&A with Director Carlos López Estrada, Executive Producer Kelly Marie Tran, and Cast Members In Person at The Landmark). It expands to over 50 cities on July 16.