Review: ‘Midsummer in Newtown’ is a Hopeful Film About the Tragedy of Sandy Hook

Perhaps you caught Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes a few weeks ago – if not you at least heard about it – and watched her quote the late Carrie Fisher. “Take your broken heart, make it into heart,” Fisher once told Streep.

You might be confused. What does any of that have to do with Lloyd Kramer’s documentary ‘Midsummer in Newtown?’

Kramer’s film is the embodiment of Fisher’s wise words. On December 14, 2012, a town was brought to its knees by a horrific, inexplicable shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The lives of those directly affected where altered forever but ‘Midsummer in Newtown’ takes a look at the wide-reaching effects of the shooting.

The tragedy that occurred remains fresh in the community’s mind but a theater production company comes to the quiet town, hoping to provide a summer of levity for the affected. They propose an updated version of William Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ holding auditions for students in the Newtown community. The film watches the creative process unfold – we see the initial auditions, the table reads, the rehearsals and the jitters ahead of going on stage in front of the whole town. We get to know some of the students who tried to make sense of why some of their friends did not go home on that fateful day. We become most acquainted with Tain Gregory, the youngest student in the production, and the film is worthy of a seeing just to get to know this special kid.

Kramer intersperses the film with testimony from families who lost a child. Saxophonist and composer Jimmy Greene and his wife Nelba Marquez-Greene, pay homage to their daughter, Ana, throughout the film by spreading awareness through Jimmy’s music. Their strength and determination to keep their daughter’s memory and spirit alive is inspiring and expectedly emotional.

‘Midsummer in Newtown’ doesn’t stare at the shooting right in the eye, nor should it. Last year’s documentary ‘Newtown,’ was a more straight-forward movie regarding the subject. Kramer’s film is about instilling hope in those who thought there wasn’t any left in the world for them and coping with tragedy through the arts. You are guaranteed to be moved watching the town come together and celebrate each other through the production.

Kramer never attempts to heal the brokenhearted because there is no healing after what took place at Sandy Hook. Instead he does the right thing and paints a beautiful portrait of camaraderie and the endurance of the human spirit.

Rating: 4/5