director: Jessica Swale (debut)
starring: gemma arterton, lucas bond, Dixie Egerickx and Gugu Mbatha-Raw
REVIEWER: lyall carter
During World War II, an Englishwoman opens her heart to an evacuee after initially resolving to be rid of him in this moving journey of womanhood, love and friendship.
Who doesn’t love a WWII tear jerker set in a quaint village that wouldn’t look out of place on a chocolate box? While giving the appearance of a tale we’ve seen before, Summerland is a WWII tear jerker with great substance anchored by a pitch perfect performance from Gemma Arterton.
Alice (Gemma Arterton), a fiercely independent folklore investigator, secludes herself in her clifftop study, debunking myths using science to disprove the existence of magic. Consumed by her work, but also profoundly lonely, she is haunted by a love affair from her past. When spirited young Frank (Lucas Bond), an evacuee from the London Blitz, is dumped into her irritable care, his innocence and curiosity awaken Alice’s deeply buried emotions. Bravely embracing life’s miraculous unpredictability, Alice learns that wounds may be healed, second chances do occur, and that, just perhaps - magic really does exist.
Summerland works as much because of its narrative and dreamy setting as the themes it explores along the way. The narrative clips along at a great place, punctuated by flashbacks of Alice’s past which is achieved in the most inventive of ways. The film has that quaint WWII almost Sunday theatre shine to it, although that is rudely interrupted by the irritable Alice who is annoyed by the war evacuee Frank, the boys who stuff sticks through her letterbox and the rest of the village to come to that.
The film really hits its stride as throughout the narrative the themes of forbidden love, loss and even female independence are explored in a tender and poignant way. Summerland is also very adept at keeping its full narrative cards quite close to its chest, pulling an ace of sorts as the film enters its final act.
The cast are all on top form, anchored by a pitch perfect performance from Gemma Arterton. She is bold and brash yet filled with so much vulnerability in her interactions with Frank.
While giving the appearance of a tale we’ve seen before, Summerland is a WWII tear jerker with great substance anchored by a pitch perfect performance from Gemma Arterton.