Currently on FreeForm and streaming on Hulu created by Bert V. Royal is the story of perspective, truth and lies that bring out a CRUEL SUMMER.
In Skylin Texas, Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia) is a young girl who feels like she is invisible in her awkwardness. Hanging out with friends Mallory (Harley Quinn Smith) and Vince (Allius Barnes) gives her friendships that hold them all together. She even has a great relationship with older brother Derek (Barrett Carnahan). Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt) is the popular blonde girl who is loved by everyone and has a great life. Sharing her days with friends and love Jamie (Froy Gutierrez), mom Joy (Andrea Anders) share in keeping up their lifestyle.
Jeanette, Mallory and Vince love making challenging lists of things to do. Jeanette’s father Greg (Michael Landes) is a local real estate broker which made it easier for her to grab keys to an empty house so the gang can play hide and seek. The problem is the house is not empty as she meets Martin Harris (Blake Lee) and discover he is the new Vice-Principal as Skylin High School where they all attend.
One evening Kate Wallis disappears sending the town into an uproar. Parent Joy and Rod (Ben Cain) try everything to find her and are devastated as the days pass. As times does, an interesting change happens, Jeanette Turner blooms and becomes the popular girl and finds love with Jamie, Kate’s boyfriend.
The change does not go unnoticed by friends Vince and Mallory and Jeanette does nothing to include them in her ‘new life’. When Kate Wallis reappears, the questions surface about where she has been and during a television interview, Kate faces the camera and names Jeanette Turner as someone who knew she was being held captive and did nothing.
Discovering that boyfriend Jamie has moved on and her friends being totally unsympathetic to what happened during her time away, Kate finds herself befriended by Mallory. It seems as if Mallory totally understands Kate and offers her ways to handle the stress that plagues her every day.
Now, the story rewinds and is told from the years 1993, 1994, 1995 as Kate continues to point the finger at Jeanette and Jeanette defends herself to the point of seeing her life crumble day by day. It is in those years that secrets are revealed, and the truth is told – but what is the truth?
That depends on who you ask.
Aurelia as Jeanette is a young girl who sees and envy’s the fantastic life of Kate Wallis. At home she has Mom, Dad and brother Derek who is heading off to college, but they are together as a family when all of the problems begin. The show gives us a change from gangly young teen to flowered young teen to dark teen. Watching Aurelia navigate this complex story is so impressive that I found myself just jaw dropped when there was a twist exposed and Aurelia plays it so smoothly.
Holt as Kate gives everyone around her the image of a fresh faced young popular girl who has friends and a wonderful home life. When she goes missing and then returns, there is more to having that life than anyone could have imagined. Holt also navigates her character through a complex tale of choices and the result of those choices. Aurelia and Holt take the show neck and neck with the portrayal of their characters. Holt gives a stunning performance as her story takes us deeper into the mystery.
Smith as Mallory is a larger-than-life person who pretty much gets Jeanette and Vince to go whatever she wants. From the beginning I though her such a push individual who did not mind sacrificing friendship to feel justified for her behaviors. Smith gives Mallory free reign and at the same time learns from her friendship with Kate. Barnes as Vince is a young man living during a time where making his sexuality known could be dangerous for him.
Landes as Greg is a father who believes in his daughter, he believes in her so much that he sacrifices his happiness, life and marriage to make sure his daughter is safe. Even as the story begins to unfold, Landes makes sure that no one tries to sway his decision to protect what he can of his family. Gutierrez as Jamie is confused by the relationship he once had with Kate to the relationship he now has with Jeanette. At the same time, he must come to terms with his own behaviors and reactions to what has happened and realize who it is he trusts.
Andes as Mom Joy is a woman who is concerned with optics about her life, business and marriage. Even when Kate becomes aware that everything is not as it seems, Joy has a way of talking anyone out of whatever it is they think they see. Andes does a bang-up job of making the viewer love and hate her in the same scene.
Lee as Harris becomes the casualty in all of this. That is not to say he is not guilty of everything because as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that trying to be the good guy of the high school is going to backfire in his face. Lee gives his character a bit of naivete and at the same time a feeling that there is a part of Martin Harris that is caught up in something he can not get out of.
Other cast include Nathaniel Ashton as Ben Hallowell, Brooklyn Sudano as Angela Prescott, Sarah Drew as Cindy Turner, and Nicole Bilderback as Denise.
Freeform is part of the ABC Family Worldwide and a subsidiary of Walt Disney Television. Freeform’s platform is geared toward a younger audience and brings about original series and feature films. Freeform can be found in over 92 million households and includes such shows as Motherland Fort Salem, The Bold Type, Good Trouble and Love in the Time of Corona. For more information of original shows and all other content please visit www.freeform.com.
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CRUEL SUMMER is an amazing series that had my whole family captivated from start to finish. The flash between years takes an episode or two to get acclimated but once that happens, it is a ride through years and tears.
As one of the executive producers, Jessica Biel says of CRUEL SUMMER, “This project was such an exciting and creative thing for Michelle Purple and I. To sit in a space with the younger generation and really give them this platform to really talk about some intense, hard things that these young people [especially for women and for girls] are going through is really exciting for me.”
She continues with, “It really shines a light on the complex part of being a teenager and trying to figure out who you are and the midst of a million things that are going on.” The best part of that statement is that as the viewer we follow along what all the teens are trying to figure out about their lives. The adults are there yes, but they are mainly adding to the complexity of being a teen.
I guarantee that once the season starts, it is a binger from then on to the shocking conclusions. Once the season is done it absolutely becomes a conversation about so many topics. Parental relationships, teen relationships, inappropriate relationships, lies, deceit, friendships, loyalty – the list is endless.
Start your season with a CRUEL SUMMER!