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Five Late Summer Films to Watch Before the Seasons Change

Five people pictured against a white background. From left to right, a boy with short curly hair and a blue-and-white striped shirt; a man in a Western-style yellow shirt and black cowboy hat; a woman in a summer top with medium-length hair; a girl with glasses, rainbow bracelets and a red tank top; and a woman with long blonde hair holding a pamphlet.
Photo montage made from images retrieved from IMDb.com. From L to R: Call Me By Your Name; True Stories; Us; Little Miss Sunshine; Before Sunrise.

Don’t be fooled by the crisp mornings of late. Sweltering summer heat will return a few more times before it finally surrenders to the chill of Fall. The change of seasons is a special time, and the five films below will help you remember that endless-summer mood even when the time comes to pull out the sweaters and puffy coats.

Call Me By Your Name (2017) dir. Luca Guadagnino

Call Me by Your Name follows 17-year-old Elio Perlman at his parents’ home in Lombardy, Italy, during the summer of 1983. When his father hires an older architecture student to be his intern for the summer, Elio’s interest is piqued, and the two forge a passionate connection. This atmospheric drama is full of yearning, poetic dialogue, incredibly nuanced performances, and cinematography that makes me want to jump through the screen and into the frame. The visuals in this film are ethereal eye-candy, with a color palette composed of baby blues, earth tones, bright oranges, and lush pastels. While good world-building is typically associated with big sci-fi epics, fantastical films, or period pieces, Call Me by Your Name proves that being able to establish a certain atmosphere, time, and place is just as important in films that don’t require extensive visual effects or constructed sets.

DVD cover art for the film "Call Me By Your Name." Two men look upward toward a bright blue sky, one resting his head on the other's shoulder. The film's title is written in yellow block letters above their heads.
Call Me By Your Name. IMDb.com. 13 September 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4wSp

The emphasis on classical art, music, and architecture also enhances the nostalgic setting of 1980s Italy. “Love My Way” by The Psychedelic Furs, multiple pre-existing classical pieces from composers like Maurice Ravel and Erik Satie, and three original songs by Sufjan Stevens populate the soundtrack, resulting in a soundscape that perfectly matches the unique setting and tone of the film.

The plot itself is an example of the quintessential summer romance: Elio and Oliver begin as strangers, become friends, and then finally realize that their feelings are more than platonic. They go on adventures while taking advantage of the tranquil beauty of Lombardy, Italy; sneak around; and learn about and from each other. Even though they know that their fling will have to come to an end, they cannot deny their interest in one another. Overall, Call Me by Your Name is a hazy, dream-like film dripping with atmospheric and poetic beauty. You’re going to want to plan a last-minute getaway to northern Italy after watching this film.

Us (2019) dir. Jordan Peele

DVD cover art for the film "Us." A woman in a deep red top is pictured, wide-eyed, against a black background. She is holding a mask of her own face slightly to the side of her face. The film title appears in white letters below her image.
Us. IMDb.com. 13 September 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4wSr

When you think about summer horror films, the first one to come to mind is probably Jaws. While we certainly owe the invention of summer blockbusters and society’s fear of the ocean to Steven Spielberg and Bruce (the name given to the animatronics Great White shark used on set), other films also deserve to be put in the summer horror spotlight. For me, one of those is Jordan Peele’s Us. The film is only three years old, but it has already cemented itself as an iconic piece of horror cinema mainly for its incredibly unique premise. The film follows Adelaide Wilson as she returns to the beachfront home from her childhood with her family. While there, traumatic memories from her past torment her, and she begins to fear that they have come back to haunt her. This fear becomes very real when four masked people show up on their driveway, eventually revealing themselves to be clones of the family. As the family plays cat and mouse with the demented clones, the mystery and insanity of the plot continue to build to a climactic and unexpected finale with a final revelation that leaves your jaw on the floor.

While the beach town setting is enough to solidify Us as a summer horror film, the Americana iconography present throughout the film also feels reminiscent of what our culture becomes during the summer months, especially near the Fourth of July. The infamous Hands Across America event that happened in 1986 also plays a major role in the plot. Peele uses Hands Across America to make a statement about social problems in America, and to suggest how such events can serve to mask unresolved social divisions that lie below the surface.

True Stories (1986) dir. David Byrne

DVD cover art for the film "True Stories." A man in a green Western-style suit, bolo tie, black cowboy boots and cowboy hat reads a newspaper, the front page of which says "True Stories" in large, bold print.
True Stories. IMDb.com, 13 September 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4wSB

True Stories is a film unseen by many but practically worshipped by those who have seen it. The film follows David Byrne (of Talking Heads fame) as he narrates a series of vignettes all set in the fictional town of Virgil, Texas. The offbeat town is preparing for its 150th-anniversary celebration: a festival that culminates in a city-wide talent show extravaganza. Along the way, we meet a cast of eccentric yet loveable characters, with the most memorable being Louis Fyne (played by John Goodman), a lovesick technician at the fictional computer manufacturer Varicorp who has an affinity for country music.

David Byrne’s signature surrealist style fills every frame. From his deadpan narration to the extravagant musical numbers, this film’s idiosyncratic style is a direct reflection of Byrne’s intense curiosity about what many people would think of as mundane. Even though this film is somewhat satirical in its exaggerated depictions of suburban life, Byrne’s interest feels sincere. The production and costume design enhance the film’s summertime setting with shots of sprawling Texas landscapes, lively shopping malls, cowboy hats, and red, white, and blue banners scattered throughout. Overall, this film is a celebration of the unexpected absurdity of small-town living and will have you wishing for a time machine so that you, too, can discover the beauty of Virgil, Texas.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006) dir. Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris

DVD cover art for the film "Little Miss Sunshine." A yellow and white Volkswagen van is pictured in the bottom third of the image, against a yellow background. One person is inside the van with arms outstretched, while four others run toward it as if to enter it.
Little Miss Sunshine. IMDb.com. 13 September 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4wSC

Little Miss Sunshine follows a young girl, Olive Hoover, and her dysfunctional family. Olive is obsessed with the world of pageantry and will do anything to compete at the annual “Little Miss Sunshine” pageant in California. When a spot opens up for her, the family jumps in their VW van and begins a chaotic cross-country road trip so that she can compete. Each member of the family has their own quirks: her dad is obsessed with winning and believes that ‘losers’ are lesser people; her brother is taking a vow of silence in the name of Friedrich Nietzsche; her uncle just got out of a relationship with a younger man and is now depressed; her grandfather is addicted to drugs; and her mom is just trying to keep the family together. They yell, they fight, and they know that they’re imperfect. But, in the end, they come together to support Olive in the pageant.

Even though Olive’s family doesn’t fit the typical nuclear family mold, their quirks make them all the more lovable. Most of this film takes place on the road with the family packed into their unreliable vehicle, which stirs up nostalgic memories of past summer road trips. Overall, if you’re looking for a feel-good family road trip movie that is equal parts hilarious and tear-jerking, give Little Miss Sunshine a chance.

Before Sunrise (1995) dir. Richard Linklater

DVD cover art for the film "Before Sunrise." A young man is pictured seated, looking down and slightly reclining. A woman has her head in his lap and looks up at him. Behind them one can see the city of Vienna, with pinkish clouds in the sky above.
Before Sunrise. IMDb.com. 13 September 2022, https://go.iu.edu/4wSE

Before Sunrise is the first film in Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy. It follows a young American man, Jesse, who meets a young French woman, Celine, on a train. The two hit it off and Celine agrees to abandon her original plans and spontaneously get off the train in Vienna with Jesse. Because Jesse’s flight back to America is the next day and he doesn’t have any money for a hotel, the two decide to wander the streets of Vienna until morning. During their adventure, they get to know one another, which makes their eventual departure in the morning all the more painful. The two forge an intimate connection while sharing their personal philosophies on love. The city of Vienna is a dreamy backdrop for the two potential lovers, as the empty streets and charming architecture perfectly complement their spontaneous romance. The cinematic summer fling that I’ve mentioned in Call Me by Your Name wouldn’t exist without Jesse and Celine’s twenty-four-hour romance. In fact, much of the atmosphere-building in Call Me by Your Name can be compared to that of Before Sunrise, one of the film’s spiritual predecessors. Before Sunrise is one of the finest examples of the “walk and talk” movie, which makes it a perfect watch for those calm and meandering late summer days.

Chloe Fulk is a junior studying cinema and media. This is her third semester working at Media Services. She is also a film columnist for the Indiana Daily Student.