In the new James Ponsoldt's (director/co-writer) film Summering, four girls, Daisy (Lia Barnett), Lola (Sanai Victoria), Dina (Madalen Mills), and Mari (Eden Grace Redfield), are spending their last week of summer vacation together before middle school. While hanging out in a forest, however, that endeavor is interrupted when they come across a dead body.
There are definite echoes to Stand By Me, but that film involved the quest to find the body so the boys could get their names in the papers. Here, the girls' motivations for not calling the police or the hospital when they find the body are unconvincing. It absolutely feels like a plot device.
Summering's strengths come from the moments where the characters are just talking to each other, whether it's the girls or their mothers. One of the girls mentions she was always proud to be the oldest of the group, but she now realizes being old isn't that great. One of the moms talks about how adults often forget to go out and make new friends as they reach middle-age. These moments feel authentic.
The problem is that the dead body plot keeps intruding, and every time it does, the film feels stilted and unconvincing. Summering might have worked better if Ponsoldt (who has made a couple of very fine films in The Spectacular Now and The End of the Tour) had just let it be a hangout film. As is, it ends up being a mixed bag.