I haven’t yet gotten used to the whole binge-watching phenomenon that entered our lives with Netflix. Yes, it’s enjoyable to consume an entire season of a series in one night, but it can never match the pleasure of weekly viewing. At least, that’s what I believe. Hulu’s new show, Cruel Summer, caters to those who prefer following a show weekly like I do. Starring Chiara Aurelia and rising star Olivia Holt, the series also serves as a nostalgic treat for those longing for the 90s.
Let’s briefly discuss the plot… Jeanette Turner is the braces-wearing, quiet, and shy girl in the neighborhood. She admires Kate Wallis, the cool and beautiful girl at school. While waiting for an opportunity to meet her, Kate mysteriously disappears one day. Jeanette seizes the chance to take Kate’s place as the cool girl by working hard. However, Kate returns one day, claiming that she was kidnapped and held captive for months. As soon as she returns, she accuses Jeanette of knowing about her kidnapping. With Kate revealing this on live television, the new cool girl of the school, Jeanette, becomes the person the entire country despises overnight.
Cruel Summer is a successful youth series that offers a simple perspective on 90s America. If you enjoy period films or series, Cruel Summer is quite successful and modest in that regard. However, what makes the series watchable and keeps it engaging throughout is its narrative structure. The show tells the story in parallel timelines: 1993, before Kate’s disappearance; 1994, during Kate’s absence; and 1995, after Kate’s return. The story unfolds simultaneously in these three different time periods, delicately weaving together all the secrets surrounding Kate’s disappearance, both before and after.
Until the very end, even the last second of the series, the mystery behind Kate’s abduction remains unveiled, and throughout the show, our curiosity about who is right and who is wrong stays intense. The last series to achieve this kind of fictional approach was How To Get Away With Murder. It is quite challenging to use different time periods in parallel, but Cruel Summer never falters in its narrative structure and presents itself as a delightful series. Perhaps the best criticism that could be made is that the series could have been two, or maybe three, episodes shorter. It wouldn’t have been bad to cut some episodes to make the plot tighter.
In essence… Cruel Summer tells the background story of a girl’s abduction and the trauma she experiences afterward while also portraying, in a modest tone, the dethroning of a girl who wants people to finally notice her. It is one of the most successful works I have seen in 2021, where we experience three different emotions in three different time periods, and the show is not afraid to touch on various social issues, either. In these years when I miss watching series on a weekly basis, Cruel Summer has genuinely fulfilled my longing.
Cast & Crew
creator: Bert V. Royal
starring: Chiara Aurelia, Olivia Holt, Froy Gutierrez, Harley Quinn Smith, Michael Landes
USA | 2021 | 10 EPISODES |