Fernando (Fabian Corres) looks for his keys in the home of his new girlfriend, single mom Valeria (Sohpie Alexander-Katz). Living with Valeria and, eventually, Fernando, is Valeria’s son and protagonist Rodrigo (Adrian Ross). Maybe Fernando really did misplace his keys or maybe Rodrigo hid them to mess with him. It’s a seemingly innocuous scene but it foreshadows what’s to come.
Rodrigo Ruiz Patterson’s Summer White practically revolves around those three characters, and to its credit, at least one supporting characters has some complexity in them. A lesser version of this may have painted Fernando as an evil stepdad but he thankfully isn’t. He actually tries to bond with Rodrigo by doing things like teaching Rodrigo how to drive.
If anything, Summer White‘s villain is Rodrigo, whose version of acting out starts small, like refusing to eat what Fernando and Valeria provide for him. The film shows his interiority through the spaces he inhabits, which are and feel separate from his, well, parents’ spaces. They appear as blurry presences in his life, only becoming clear when his actions have some consequences.
Summer White is good, if not tolerable, but there are a few things making it the latter. I’m sure many films can make more than one complex supporting character but it feels like this one stops at just the one. And sure, it’s Rodrigo’s film but there are pockets here where Valeria is conspicuously absent. She leaves Fernando to do the parenting for her.
Viewers then see Rodrigo, who might as well be a motherless child, skip school and hang out at a junkyard where he makes an abandoned trailer his own. Sections of Summer White, like, ten minutes on end, is just him hanging out at that yard. This kind of minimalist filmmaking can be refreshing but it’s also an acquired taste.
Things eventually make sense in Summer White‘s third act, when Fernando replaces Rodrigo’s old trailer for a new one, which makes him a gentrifying force in Rodrigo’s eyes. Despite of its slow approach, the film still falls under the category of ones where viewers can understand the characters who don’t understand each other. The film’s approach to that isn’t perfect.
What saves this, regardless, is Ross’s approach to to depicting Rodrigo. This is one of those films that stretches its’ protagonist’s unlikeable nature. But it’s subtle things like Ross’ body language that shows that yes, there’s logic and a conscience to him. Performances like this make viewers keep rooting for characters that they might write off in their real lives.
Summer White comes soon on OVID.