There’s always great film material about the summer break between high school and college: the coming-of-age style, mixed with intense friendship drama, final declarations of love and inevitable breakups before beginning a new chapter in your late adolescence.
Benjamin Kasulke’s Banana Split has it all, earning a spot in the coming-of-age hall of fame along with films like Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart and Stephen Chbosky’s Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Initially, Banana Split premiered in September 2018 at the Los Angeles Film Festival. After, the film was shown three more times at the Newport Beach International Film Festival in April 2019, the Seattle International Film Festival in May 2019 and, finally, the Brukivka-Kamianets-Podilskyi International Film Festival in the Ukraine in September 2019. The film didn’t make an internet release until March 2020 and is new to Netflix as of the end of July 2020.
The film follows April (Hannah Marks), a recent high school graduate who just experienced a brutal breakup with her high school boyfriend of two years, Nick (Dylan Sprouse). When Nick starts dating another girl named Clara (Liana Liberato), April forms an unlikely friendship with her that proves to be somewhat challenging, as the foundation of the relationship is built on their mutual interest in Nick.
The cast is a phenomenal collection of talent that gives relatable and gripping performances. Sprouse brings a charming and dorky performance, not unlike his real life persona. Luke Spencer Roberts’ performance of Ben is lovable and hilarious, making him the film’s hidden gem.
But it’s Marks and Liberato’s powerhouse performances that make the film amazing. Marks perfectly portrays the feeling of longing for the comfortability of being in a relationship with someone you’re familiar with while Liberato vivaciously shows the woman who comes off as confident but possesses a world of insecurity underneath. Both are fiery, complex women who fall under no film trope but, rather, are a great representation of real women.
Marks not only stars in the film, but she also wrote the film. Her brilliance and self-awareness radiates through every scene in the film. It’s an honest portrayal of women in high school, especially women who believe they are wildly mature or smart for their age.
The story is beautifully laid out, from the whirlwind romance of Nick and April in montage form at the beginning of the film to the further complexities of the relationship sprinkled throughout. The realistic arguments and painfully accurate moments of tension between the two lead women is incredibly well done.
Not only that but the fact that every character has faults and imperfections makes the film so much better. Within every argument, each character has compelling points with no set-in-stone right or wrong. It’s much more accurate to the complexity of arguments among friends, exes and significant others.
The cinematography and film editing by Darin Moran and Brendan Walsh, respectively, is nothing short of brilliance. When paired with Marks’ script, the film bleeds nostalgia in the most compelling way, making it one of the best coming-of-age films for people to watch, no matter if you’re still in high school or have graduated from college. It also provides one of the most important and timeless messages: true friendship always prevails.
Banana Split is a masterclass in honest portrayals of young women met with petty high school tension and discomfort. Marks, along with the rest of the cast and crew, created a brilliantly memorable film that is by far a must-watch.