Surviving Summer (2022) review: Sub-optimal teen drama about surfing

Surviving Summer is an Australian Netflix original series following Summer, a wild child sent to live with a family of strangers in Australia when her mom gets a job in the Middle East. It is now streaming on Netflix.

Story

After getting expelled for the second time, Summer receives news that her mom has been assigned a job in the Middle East and is sending her to stay with an old friend’s family in Australia. On reaching there, she meets Abbie and her husband, Thommo and their two kids, Ari and Honey. 

After a year of rehab following a surfing accident, Ari finally returns to the sport. However, he soon discovers that the accident impacted him more than he thought. 

At a surfing competition, Summer meets Ari’s friends, Bodhi and Poppy, scoring an invitation to a party, which seems to confuse Ari.

Marlon, a cocky ukulele-playing surfer, seems to have a troubled history with Ari which leads to the two getting into a brawl.

Summer’s friendship with the group is packed with waves of drama that seem to drive the group apart now and then only to bring them back together, their bond stronger than ever. 

Performances

Previously spotted in Disney’s Raven’s Home, Sky Katz plays the protagonist of the show, Summer, motivated to rebel by an estranged relationship with her mother. She manages to find an appealing balance between playing the arrogant wild child and the friend who never hesitates to stand up for those she cares about.

Lilliana Bowrey wins the audience over as Poppy Tetanui, an ambitious surfer who doesn’t shy away from honesty. 

The rest of the cast delivers an equally remarkable performance, adding a natural and realistic element to their characters. 

Positives

Aimed at teenagers, the series contains a considerable amount of teen drama and limits details of the sport to the right amount to earn the audience’s attention without boring them with specifications. Seldom straying from the fixed formula of how the storyline must progress, the show features many of the usual teen drama themes, often romantic in nature.

However, it surprises the viewers with a newer focus on some milder themes, such as anxiety, atypical parental relationships, guilt and insecurity, and more. 

With a wide variety of the plots explored, the show is well-paced, stretching over 10 episodes of 30 minutes each, which makes it easy to watch while maintaining a moderate level of interest in the various plots.

Surviving Summer takes its time establishing the pre-existing dynamics between the characters by letting the audience observe for themselves the aftermath of incidents in the past, such as Ari’s accident. 

The series flaunts some good character writing, not limited to the main characters, a mixed assortment of friends whose personalities go deeper than their archetypes, enough to win the audience’s admiration.

The show tends to follow a pattern of offering a believable explanation for the characters’ actions, often steered by emotions common in young adults that the audience might be able to identify with. 

The show’s drama is set against the backdrop of surfing competitions and the group’s surfing journey, complemented by the stunning visuals of Australia’s beaches and a noteworthy soundtrack.

Negatives

Surviving Summer does a good job of presenting a reused tale and characters in a modern take by humanizing its characters enough to make them relatable. However, its lack of originality exposes its missed potential of excelling in its genre. 

On one hand, Surviving Summer gains a point for exploring various kinds of parental relationships, something still rare for this genre despite the time’s need.

On the other hand, the Gibsons, one of the show’s pair of parents whose kids are more likely to be envied, are inappropriately depicted as parents with healthy parenting techniques. They often fall back on punishing Ari by banning him from competitions despite being aware of his desire to pursue the sport professionally. 

Verdict

Despite a lack of innovation in the structure of the show, Surviving Summer is an easy and entertaining watch, especially for young adults, its target audience. However, it is unlikely to leave a lasting impression on its viewers. 

Rating: 3/5


Also Read: Surviving Summer summary and ending explained