With “The Summer Off,” teen filmmaker Bannon is coming into his own with a distinctive voice and a visual style that some directors may go decades without establishing. After a drunk driving incident that almost kills him and his best friend, 17-year old Ethan (Mark Dew) is sent to stay with his hippy-trippy Uncle Jack (Steve Silverman) and Jack’s daughter Mary (Anna Didio). While there, Ethan discovers that problems of emotional and chemical nature can cross generational boundaries.
Bannon gets a lot right in his third directorial effort, such as showing Ethan and his friend Chris (Mike Broderick) talking in the manner one would expect if the scene was written by someone of like age, which would be the case here. Given the financial constraints on his filming, Bannon also finds ways to shoot the driving sequence in a way that is actually relatively realistic.
Silverman continues to impress in Bannon’s films. His Uncle Jack is a typical ex-flower child, though Silverman manages to imbue him with a sense of determined melancholy that contradicts a truly inspired dance number involving him and Ethan in the backyard.
Of course, these old hippies aren’t just sources of ridicule and derision; on rare occasions they actually have something to teach us. In Jack’s case, his mourning his lost wife has sent him beyond hope of recall. And the final scenes in “The Summer Off,” while still fairly sentimental, are also more effective as a “Just Say No” message than any commercial featuring some goth chick beating the hell out of her dish rack with a skillet. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of Bannon’s work.