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I was a very big fan of Jay Bell’s Something Like . . . series and had literally been waiting for this movie for years, so this past weekend I drove down to watch a screening of the film at a LGBTQ+ film festival in San Diego.

For the uninitiated, Something Like Summer is a book to film adaptation of the first book in Jay Bell’s Something Like series. The synopsis for the film reads, “Benjamin is an out-of-the-closet theater kid, while Tim is the hunky town jock. When Benjamin discovers his attraction to Tim is reciprocated, this delightfully musical tale takes off.

“The boys’ relationship spans years, encapsulating all of the delirious highs and painful lows of young love. This crowd-pleaser brings a beloved series of YA novels to life as these two young men explore the complex lines between being friends, lovers, and strangers.”

‘Something Like Summer’ movie review

The film absolutely blew me away. The cinematography was fantastic. As movies go this was very visually pleasing. The storyline is a fairly faithful adaptation of the first book in the series. There were a couple of characters and storylines that were condensed, but that is often necessary when adapting a novel into a movie, especially one that is just under two hours long.

Much of the dialogue was pulled directly from the book, to the point that I caught myself mouthing along with the actors, despite the fact that this was my first time watching the film.

I will admit that in the film’s attempts to condense the novel some of the motivations of the characters were lost, particularly with the character of Tim. It was harder to understand where he was coming from when making the decisions that he did. Jace’s screen time, the third male lead of the film, was also shorter than I would have liked.

But in retrospect, Jace probably had just as much screen time in the movie as number of pages he had in the book. It merely felt shorter in a two-hour film. All in all, the sentiments of the novel carried over into the book and I found myself feeling all of the same things I felt when reading the book for the first time.

As for the lead actors, all of the performances were phenomenal. The only actor I had seen before was Ben Baur, who portrayed Jace Holden. I was familiar with him as the lead in the web series, Hunting Season, and I remember thinking when he was cast that he was a perfect fit for Jace. Davi Santos, who portrayed the closeted Tim Wyman, brought a lot of heart to the character.

This is especially challenging considering that the character of Tim makes certain decisions that could potentially turn the audience against him. But throughout the entire film Santos ensures that the reasons for Tim’s misguided actions are clear.

And of course there is the main character of Benjamin Bentley, portrayed by newcomer Grant Davis. This was the casting choice I was most concerned about. The entirety of the movie relies on the character of Benjamin to push things forward. The film takes place over a period of 12 years and during that time you had to watch Benjamin struggle through his high school years into adulthood, all while dealing with the competing loves of his life.

I am happy to say that my concerns were completely unfounded. Davis brought the same strength and fearlessness that Benjamin has in the books. At the same time, you can see moments of vulnerability, particularly in the early years when Benjamin is just starting to figure out the ins and outs of love. This was a great way for Davis to start his career and he is definitely one to watch.

Another concern of mine was the decision to make the film a quasi-musical. Music is a very large part in the novels. There are multiple instances in which Benjamin’s musical talents are expounded in the books, and it is a very large part of who Benjamin is as a character. In order to fully develop this in the film there are moments throughout the film in which Benjamin sings on stage.

In the novel you are able to delve in Benjamin’s psyche and actually hear his thoughts. That is often the difficult part of a film adaptation. But these moments allowed the audience to take a peek into Benjamin’s thoughts in the moment. And they flowed seamlessly with the main story of the film so that they were not jarring or disruptive to the flow. I came to appreciate these brief musical respites and thought that it fully rounded out the film.

One of the biggest weaknesses of the film was when the characters traveled abroad. There is a lot of travel in the novels, but with the limited budget of an independent film production had to recreate these iconic countries all within Portland, where the film was shot. The green screen is very evident during these scenes, to the point that there were a couple of giggles from the audience.

However, the production team did their best with a limited budget, and it’s not so bad as to completely take you out of the moment. And fortunately there was only one main scene that this occurred.

Overall, I felt the film was a success. Was it a perfect adaptation? Of course not, but really, what adaptation is? I found myself smiling throughout the film and getting emotionally invested in these characters all over again. So much so that I found myself crying during the very final scene of the movie, despite the fact that I already knew how it would all end.

The movie is a beautiful expression of not just LGBT+ love, but love in general, and how our love and art are both connected and should be nurtured and shared with the world, not hidden away. I highly recommend this film, not just for those who have read the novels, but to newcomers as well. Who knows, maybe it will inspire you to give the series a try.

Grade: B+

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