The Last of the High Kings

The Last of the High Kings, also released under the title Summer Fling in some countries, is a 1996 coming of age comedy-drama film set in Howth, Dublin, Ireland in the 1970s where the teenagers of the story are dealing with the birth of punk, the death of Elvis Presley and the various dramas of their teens. The lead role of Frankie Griffin is played by Jared Leto in his first feature film.[1] Christina Ricci also stars as an American visiting for the summer. The film is based on the book of the same name by Ferdia Mac Anna.

The Last of the High Kings
Directed byDavid Keating
Produced byGabriel Byrne
Paul Feldsher
Keith Northrop
Tim Palmer
Written byFerdia MacAnna (novel)
Screenplay byGabriel Byrne
David Keating
Music byMichael Convertino
CinematographyBernd Heinl
Edited byRay Lovejoy
Distributed byFirst Independent Films
Miramax Films
Release date
  • 22 November 1996 (1996-11-22)


After Elvis Presley's death and stressful exams, a teenager organises a beach party during the summer.



The film premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh, on 11 July 1996.[3] It went on general release in Ireland in November 1996. Unusually three of the top four films at the box office were Irish made, with Michael Collins taking the top spot, and High Kings coming in fourth place.[4]


Michael Dwyer of The Irish Times was critical of the "uneven performances" and says that although "the camera loves him, Leto's performance is blandly unremarkable" and that Catherine O'Hara's is "wildly over the top" and her performance capsizes the film.[5] Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club complains of the renaming of the film to the generic "Summer Fling" title, and describes it as "a pleasant, unpretentious, ultimately uninvolving film that hews so closely to the conventions of the coming-of-age film that it verges on self-parody." Rabin is also critical of the actors, saying "Leto is a washout as the film's wistful protagonist, and O'Hara gives an almost embarrassingly over-the-top performance".[6]

Adam Mars-Jones of The Independent says the film is formulaic but "What saves the film is the director David Keating's light tone -- he seems to be both indulging his audience's nostalgia and gently mocking it" and "It helps that the actor Jared Leto has a permanent twinkle in his eye which suggests that Frankie too realises both the gravity and the absurdity of his initiation into adulthood."[7] Anne Billson of the Sunday Telegraph called it "another slice of Oirish whimsy" and praised it for the incidental pleasures, but criticized for being formless and rambling.[8] Derek Elley of Variety called it "an agreeable cocktail from familiar ingredients".[9]


  1. Dwyer, Ciara (March 7, 2010). "Jared Leto". The Last of the High Kings was my very first film.
  2. "Coming of age". The Irish Times.
  4. Dwyer, Michael (6 December 1996). "Irish films top box office". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 2019-07-05.
  5. Dwyer, Michael (July 19, 1996). "A FLEADH IN OUR YEAR". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 2019-07-05.
  6. Rabin, Nathan (2002-03-29). "Summer Fling". The A.V. Club. The Onion.
  7. Mars-Jones, Adam (5 December 1996). "All the young dudes: Film review". The Independent.
  8. Billson, Anne (14 December 1996). "Law of the jingle". Sunday Telegraph.
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