Last Summer of Nathan Lee follows 18-year-old Nathan who has just discovered that he has an incurable brain cancer. He asks his best friend Dash to document his remaining time alive which he avows to live with passion. Based on real-life events, writer/director Quentin Lee’s film is both a coming-of-age story as well as an end-of-life drama.
Nathan (Harrison Xu) is diagnosed with cancer the day before his 18th birthday. At first only his father (Albert Park), younger sister Ruby (Lauren Mei) and best friend Dash (Matthew Mitchell Espinosa) know of his illness. He is in his senior year at high school in the US and wants a memoir of his life so he’s not forgotten once he passes. To quote Sartre, “Life begins on the other side of despair”, and Nathan grabs at his remaining life as fast as he can. First priority is to lose his virginity, which good friend April (Dru Perez) assists with at a pool party. He also plans to sleep with men too, Dash, who is gay, obliges, in a threesome with another friend Lorelei (Natasha Tina Liu). Things get a little complicated as April and Lorelei both have feelings for Nathan and Dash has a boyfriend Caleb (Aaron Guest). The sexually liberal group of friends soon find out about Nathan’s diagnosis and vow to help him as much as possible as they all make plans to start different universities at the end of the summer. Nathan is somewhat torn between living for the moment, dealing with his failing health, and planning for a future that probably won’t happen.
Director Lee has taken a serious storyline about terminal illness and managed to make it palatable, often light-hearted, viewing. He keeps the script frothy which reflects how many 18-year-olds think and talk. This lightness means the film is more likely to appeal to younger audiences. This is also a tale of friendship and, in particular, those deep friendships we have in our youth. It’s an inspiring, sunlit story about dealing with an end-of-life prognosis.
Queerguru’s Contributing Editor Ris Fatah is a successful fashion/luxury business consultant (when he can be bothered) who divides and wastes his time between London and Ibiza. He is a lover of all things queer, feminist, and human rights in general. @ris.fatah