With the right amount of comedy and romance and the vibe of a coming of age tale, Banana Split is a poignant and profoundly resonating story that’s about the struggles of friendships and the overall impact they will have on us. Ben Kasulke, in his directorial debut, has crafted a beautiful movie that will pull on your heart strings and have you smiling at the end of the journey.
The primary story of Banana Spilt focuses on two young high school students, April and Clara, who form a deep and very platonic type of friendship. All things seem fine and dandy, that is until things start getting out of control knowing that Clara is currently in a relationship with April’s ex-boyfriend, Nick.
The best aspect that drives Banana Split is the female friendship between April and Clara, which is hardly ever depicted in rom-coms which focus on male-female romantic relationships. One thing about the relationship between April and Clara is that the movie doesn’t handle it like it’s a problem. Granted, they try their best to avoid talking about Nick, and they don’t they tell him anything about what happens when they’re hanging out, but sadly, they still fight about it. Banana Spilt does an exceptional job at showcasing that it’s not about whether one of them gets Nick, it’s about the friendship of April and Clara and how it is a representation of how complex relationships and friendships really are, giving both of them the same amount of importance.
The chemistry that April and Clara share is also some of the best that this genre has to offer because there’s so much thought and authenticity to it. As the movie progresses, they both grow on you, to the point where you’re an emotional wreck. It should be worth noting that Hannah Marks (April) wrote this script alongside Joey Power. There’s a very good reason why Banana Split exudes great chemistry between the two leads as Marks shares a great relationship with actress Liana Liberato (Clara). There’s so much passion and sweetness and the delicate nature between them is really what this movie is all about.
The movie brilliantly starts with this complete outline of the relationship of April and Nick when they’re together. We, as the audience, acknowledge April’s unresolved feelings which will then color the relationship between Clara and April, and even with Nick. This gives the film a more natural representation of friendships, even though it’s no small feat to make characters this holistic and a story this streamlined. The idea of showcasing a grounded and relatable friendship allows for a subtle and exposure-free interaction between Clara and April, which reveals the cracks in their relationship. Their banter and the scenes of them just hanging out are a pure delight and it leaves you with wanting more of that. Part of the reason why their banter stands out is that it’s such a genuine relationship, even though it does represent the struggles in even the greatest of friendships. They share laughs, but they’ll bicker with one another, and it’s part of why their relationship works from beginning to end. The writing and all the development that went into the dynamics between these two characters was a staggering, even for such a small movie. Every great friendship with have its ups and downs, and Banana Split beautifully displays that.
For a movie that’s barely 90 minutes long, Banana Spilt earned it’s runtime by giving you just the right amount of story and character, without it ever feeling disjointed or ever out of focus. Throughout the entire length of the movie, you get to see so much between a friendship unfold, whether it’s the entire arc between April and Clara, the feeling of moving on after high school, or the ideas of growing up. So, while it was bitter sweet that the movie ended, it also felt like a perfect way for the everything to come to a full circle.
As far as any weaknesses go, the character of Nick is probably the least developed piece of the puzzle. Dylan Sprouse, who’s without a doubt the most famous actor in the film, gives a solid performance, but it just didn’t stand out compared to the two female leads. The reason for that is because the character of Nick is usually objectified as a woman, in other romantic comedies where the two leads are male. He wasn’t as interesting as April or Clara, and this was an attempt of trying to be different and more subversive, but it just came across as a bit of a gimmick, partly because there wasn’t as strong of a focus on his character as there was on the dynamic between April and Clara. It’s not that he is a bad character, but in comparison to April and Clara he didn’t have the resonance or the impact that the two girls had.
Banana Spilt should be one of those small movies that grows a bigger and stronger fandom as the years progress. At the heart of this movie is the relationship between April and Clara, and it’s a beautiful representation of what a friendship might actually look like. It’s truthful when it needs to be, but most importantly, Banana Split pushes the boundaries on what a “teen” movie can do, and that’s to be more mature than it’s given credit for. Yes, it’s easy for teenagers to connect to this movie, so it’ll be easy for younger audiences to get connected, but there’s something so universal about how the movie approaches its themes and subject matter that will make older audiences be moved by the story and the characters. It’s probably not YA in the traditional sense, but Banana Spilt really goes beyond the realm of being YA because it pushes the boundaries on telling a story where the focus is on younger characters. It focuses on situations that almost all ages can identify with, thereby making it more accessible for other demographics. There may not be anything absolutely groundbreaking when it comes to the filmmaking side of things, but as far character and story goes, Banana Split does not disappoint at all.
Available on VOD and digital March 27th, 2020.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.