The Perfect Summer premiered on inspirational channel UP-TV in July of 2013. Directed by Gary Wheeler (who also co-wrote the script), the film centers on 17-year-old Jake (Adam Horner), who moves with his mother Alyssa (Soap star Sydney Penny) from Chicago to a small coastal town after the death of Jake’s father. The two move in with Alyssa’s father and Jake’s grandfather Lou (Eric Roberts), with whom Alyssa has mostly been estranged.
The disengaged Jake struggles over the death of his own father and being uprooted from the only home he has ever known, so Lou decides to teach Jake how to surf in order to forge a connection. Jake not only grows into a new relationship with his grandfather, but with a young, local girl named Kayla (Katie Garfield) who encourages Jake to enter a surfing competition.
While Jake clings to his past life, Lou firmly coaxes him to try something different—to engage in the life in front of him, even if it is not the life he would have chosen. The story is reminiscent of Jesus commanding Peter to come out of the boat and walk on water, and Peter’s attitude was sometimes akin to 17-year-old Jake’s.
Co-writer Nathan Scoggins talked about what drew him to the project. “Where I first connected with the idea, and what is the theme of the movie, is the idea of having to take risks. You can't find what you're looking for sitting on the beach. We are always being invited to step out of the boat and step into new things—that is what resonated with me and connected with me,” Nathan said.
While the movie is a coming-of-age tale, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration undergird the story in a way that is neither preachy nor pretentious. Jake has a father-figure restored in his life; Alyssa regains her father, lost to her all those years ago, and Lou does for his grandson what he could not do for his daughter—make an impact and a difference in his life, and be instrumental in helping him chart steps for his future.
Eric Roberts’ Lou is riveting and engaging, the male role model that Jake needs at this pivotal time in his life, as he steps out of boyhood into manhood. Lou teaches Jake, discipline, focus, and most of all, how not to quit—especially when things get rough. This was a hard-won lesson for Lou himself, as he allowed his own surfing career, and an alcohol addiction, to get in the way of being a husband and a father.
Unlike many family-oriented or faith-based films, Scoggins and Wheeler keep the story weighted in realistic dialogue and credible situations. The good plotting and character development is matched by the caliber of actors such as Roberts, Penny (All My Children, The Bold and the Beautiful), and Louis Mandylor (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Grace Under Fire), who help cement a quality production from what is already a compact script.
The one thing that mars this solid film is the score, which borders on intrusive and a tad manipulative, rather than augmenting a capable story.
The Perfect Summer re-airs from time to time on UP-TV. Check your local listings for dates and times. The film was released on DVD August 5, and can be purchased through the film’s website or on Amazon.