My Summer As A Goth is a coming of age story that follows 16-year-old Joey (Natalie Shershow) as she spends the summer vacation with her grandparents following the sudden death of her father, and the journey she takes to self-acceptance and happiness.
Joey has reached the end of the school year despite the recent death of her father, and being something of a loner who hates hanging out with most of the other students. When her mother has to leave town for a number of weeks, Joey is sent off to stay with her grandparents.
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Unlike most movie grandparents, Joey’s are actually quite cool, and try to make sure that Joey is having a good time, whatever it is that she needs that to be. They give her space, encourage her to explore, give her a big wad of cash to have fun with, and try to get her to make some new friends. One of these new friends is Victor (Jack Levis), the grandson of their neighbours.
Joey is instantly drawn to Victor. His goth look grabs her attention, and his brash and forward personality is something that helps to draw her out of her shell. With the help of some of his friends Victor gives Joey a make-over, getting her to embrace her inner goth. At first this is a great thing, and Joey begins to discover a new sense of happiness and freedom that had been eluding her; but over the course of the summer she begins to suspect that Victor might not be the amazing guy she first thought he was.
My Summer As A Goth is a film that instantly intrigued me, in large part because I was curious to see just what it would try to do with its representation of the goth community. In most media goths are either painted as depressed, lonely teens who revel in death and a gloomy aesthetic, or they’re used as the punchlines for jokes. However, this movie really seemed to understand that goths are as varied and interesting as any group of people, and that just because someone wears black clothing and dark make-up doesn’t mean that they’re going to be depressed or sad all the time.
The film embraces the idea that being a goth can be something fun, something that brings people a sense of happiness and joy. The film does use being a goth as a punchline a couple of times, but in subversive ways, by showing that it’s not what people expected. One young goth couple get told they look like ‘a couple of dead honeymooners’, to which they respond with a big grin and a thank you. It’s small jokes like this that make the film really charming; it doesn’t include goth culture just to make fun of it, but embraces it.
Whilst most of the goths in the film are handled really well, and are given pretty well rounded personalities, Victor is a bit of a caricature. He wears clothing that’s very over the top, stark make-up even by goth standards, and his attitudes seem to fall back on some reductive stereotypes. Now, I suspect this is done on purpose, and Victor isn’t the nicest character in the world, and the other goth friends that Joey makes are much nicer in comparison. However, some people might find Victor’s portrayal a bit reductive, or even offensive at times.
Other members of the cast are great however, with Joey’s grandparents being some of the more fun movie grandparents I’ve seen in a while, and people I’d probably enjoy hanging out with. There’s even a fun scene where they take Joey to experience bingo for the first time, at a bingo hall where the host is a drag artist. Not only is this scene fun and subverting of expectations, but it’s handled really well, and whilst there are a few laughs with the drag queen character they’re always with them, and not at them; which is how much of the comedy in this film works, making comedy where people’s differences aren’t a punchline.
The film proved to be a fun and touching coming of age story, one that encourages the idea of self exploration, to try new things and new social circles. If your life is in a rut and you don’t feel like you fit in, maybe it’s because the people you’re surrounding yourself with aren’t the community you need, and perhaps the people that will help to make you happy are out there somewhere.
The story has an uplifting message, and a sense of fun and hope to it that stops it from feeling tired, even if this is the kind of story that we’ve seen before with a goth make-over. I ultimately had a lot of fun with it, and I’m sure that a lot of you will too.
My Summer as a Goth is out now on Digital.