Jacob Richardson | 14/11/2020
A quaint and hopeful piece set in wartime Britain.
Summerland takes the shadow of wartime Britain and delivers a ray of sunshine nestled amongst the Dover countryside. The spectre of the Nazi’s is there, for sure, but this focuses more on the struggle dealing with loss - both romantic and existent. We’re introduced to Alice (Gemma Arterton) as a writing obsessed recluse, commonly referred to as a witch or Nazi spy by kids in the small coastal village she lives in. Entirely consumed by her work on myths and legends, and the scientific reasoning behind them, she barely even notices when a young child is dropped on her doorstep, seeking refuge from the bombing in London. As they live together for more and more time, Frank (Lucas Bond) and Alice start to develop a bond, and Alice starts to come to terms with the loss of her former lover, Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Together, they work on uncovering the secrets of a hovering mythical mirage, and in the meantime work on understanding and coming to terms with their respective losses.
Written and directed by Jessica Swale, Summerland is quaint and upbeat, with a distinctly nostalgic/romantic flavour. Like a lazy sunny afternoon, it is a hazy experience, settled into almost immediately. There is something intimate and enjoyable about this film, that allows us to be transported into a dreamlike existence. Swale does a tremendous job of creating an atmosphere that does suck you in.
Arterton is tremendous, and has fantastic chemistry with both Bond and Mbatha-Raw. Her performance captures the naive romantic, the tender motherly affection and a distinct mad scientist vibe, all rolled up in a flurry of character beats and period garments. Bond also makes an impression; the young actor has quite an enjoyable, sweet presence in the film. Dixie Egerickx, playing one of Frank’s new friends, cements her status post Secret Garden as a young actress to watch, playing one of the movies most complex characters with aplomb.
That being said, Summerland hits beats we can all see coming a mile off, and struggles to find something new to say. It’s a nice, safe and kind film, but doesn’t push any boundaries in the slightest. As an example of middle of the road British period filmmaking, it is a prime one. One wishes that the movie took more risks, and made more of a statement. Nevertheless, for a movie that won’t really stay with you long after the credits roll, it is a soothing, unprovocative and enjoyable time in the theatre.
Summerland isn’t breaking any boundaries, but it is a movie you can sink into with ease.