The Last of the High Kings

 

summer-flingI’ve decided to check other Jared Leto movies. I didn’t quite know where to start. Ideally, it would be good to watch his films in chronological order. But I don’t want to waste time on movie that turns out to be awful. So I honestly had no idea where to begin.

Last weekend, I decided to have a Friday night movie. I narrowed down my choices to four movies. Highway, Prefontaine, Lonely Hearts, and The Last of the High Kings. I wasn’t in the mood for anything too serious. This eliminated Prefontaine and Lonely Hearts. My Friday Night movie would be either 2002’s Highway or 1996’s The Last of the High Kings. You’ve probably figured out already which movie I chose solely based this blog post’s title. The Last of the High Kings made its US debut in 1998 under the title of Summer Fling. Honestly, I feel “Summer Fling” gives people the wrong impression of this movie. It should have kept its original movie title for the US release.

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The Last of the High Kings is set in Dublin, Ireland during 1977. [Fun fact: It was shot on location in Howth, a village and outer suburb of Dublin, Ireland.] This movie spans a time period of two to three weeks. So a relatively short time. After finishing his exams, Frankie Gilbert embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Just like any other teenager he wants to make the most out of his summer vacation. Participating in crazy shenanigans with his two best friends. Trying to get onto Romy and Jayne’s radar. Dealing with his quirky, oddball parents and four siblings. A new chapter of his life will soon commence upon receiving his exam results. Frankie contemplates what he wants to do with his life. The film captures a great balance of interaction between his family and friends/school peers.

There were a few surprising curveballs. First, conflicting tension between Catholic and Protestant groups is a prevalent theme. Christianity has played a vital role within Ireland’s history. Most European countries have deep ties to Christianity. Catholic and Protestant groups haven’t always gotten along well. Also, there are plenty of incorrect stereotypes and assumptions revolving around each religious denomination. Throughout the film, religious tensions between the Irish Catholics and Protestants are explored in some sub-plot lines. This element added additional depth to the film’s overall story arc.

Second, the interaction with Frankie and his siblings was very intriguing. From my perspective, it seemed he wasn’t too close to most of his siblings. There’s a functional yet somewhat distant dynamic whenever he interacts with them. Yet there is one exception. He is especially close to his youngest brother, Noelie.  Frankie briefly narrates how his brother isn’t like other kids his age. Noelie is mentally stunted and it will permanently impact the rest of his life. He won’t be able independently take care after himself even as an adult. At one point, Frankie’s youngest sister, Dawn, asked their mother who will look after Noelie when both parents are dead. A young child should not have such dark, depressing thoughts. Unfortunately, this is the reality of Noelie’s fate. Frankie, Maggie, Ray, and Dawn will have to share the responsibility of looking after him.

The scenes with Frankie and Noelie spending time together were truly heartwarming. I actually got a bit emotional during these scenes. Despite all their flaws, Frankie loves his parents and siblings. They don’t pretend to be a normal family. Nope not even close. The Griffins proudly embrace their quirky personalities.

I really enjoyed how the major and minor characters were fleshed out within the overall story arc. In varying degrees, there was dynamic character development. It helped that Frankie Griffin was a multi-faceted character. Basically Frankie’s relationship with the major or minor character determines the nature of the interaction.

Setting is an important element in cinematography. There’s plenty of Irish charm to the village of Howth. The entire movie takes place in this seaside village. The audience sees different parts of Howth throughout the various sub-plots. Howth’s scenery was beautifully incorporated into many scenes throughout the film. This helps immerse the viewer into this world.

American actors don’t always nail non-American accents in their film or TV roles. But I was very impressed with Jared Leto’s Irish accent. It didn’t sound forced at all. Heck I would have thought Jared normally spoke with an Irish accent…if I didn’t already know he is an American actor.

Despite the loosely structured story arcs, The Last of the High Kings a witty, coming-of-age indie film that is full of heart and soul. It invokes a plethora of emotions with its compelling plot lines. I would recommend this film!