'Cruel Summer' offers a time-twisting spin on a teen-soap mystery

“Estate crudele” is set in the 1990s and shares its name with a Bananarama song from the ’80s, ma le sue qualità abbinabili lo rendono adatto agli anni '20. Quanto bene si tradurrà in Freeform, the Disney-owned cable network, could be another matter, but this time-twisting soap opera certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of narrative ambition.

The series unfolds over a series of days in 1993, 1994 e 1995, briskly oscillating among them in each episodeas events move along, remaining a year or two apartwhile dropping clue after clue in a series of mysteries.
At the core of it all is Jeanette (Chiara Aurelia), a shy girl with braces when we first meet her on her 15th birthday, a confident and transformed one a year later, and a dour figure under suspicion by the police the year after that. Her fate is inextricably tied to that of Kate (Olivia Holt, graduating from Disney Channel fare), beautiful and popular, who is abducted and missing in the second year, and dealing with the fallout and psychological aftermath of that in the third.
    Quello che è successo, Esattamente, and how did Jeanetteenvious of Kate at first, only to transform herself into a version of hercapitalize upon, and possibly play a part in, her ordeal? That’s the scenario that series creator Bert V. Royal teases out, working with Jessica Biel, chi, a seguire The Sinner,” continues to build her producing profile.
      Ancora, the focus is not only on the two girls, but those around them, including friends and parents, whose relationships have been jumbled in head-spinning ways as well from year to year.
        Francamente, one could easily do without another show that involves the victimization of a teenage girl, e “Estate crudele” incorporates warnings for those who might be unsettled by that scenario. Yet the device largely works as a set-up to explore, primarily, Jeanette’s evolution, quale, thanks to Aurelia’s impressive performance, somehow manages to feel like an almost completely different character in each of the years visited.
        Freeform has sought to carve out a somewhat edgier niche for its youth-oriented dramas, but the truth is “Estate crudele” will likely struggle to have the same impact in this venue that it would, dire, were the show premiering on Netflix or the CW, which have carved out a fertile audience for provocative fare like “13 Le ragioni per cui” o “Riverdale” that plays off teen-soap conventions.
          Occasionally, the right show comes along in the wrong venue, which in TV terms can become its own cruel twist of fate. Per adesso, anche se, the four previewed episodes continue to deliver unexpected turns and crumbs of information, planting the hook deep enough to sustain curiosity about where all this is heading, with the disclaimer that the aforementioned dramas ran out of creative gas pretty quickly.
            As pass-the-popcorn diversions go, that’s about as solid an endorsementgiven misgivings about the subject matter — come “Estate crudele” could hope to elicit.
            “Estate crudele” premieres April 20 a 9 p.m. on Freeform.

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