Thursday, August 20, 2020

film review: Summerland

Directed by Jessica Swale

Written by Jessica Swale

ChinoKino score: B

Review by Allan Tong

Summerland is the imaginary, pagan heaven envisioned by reclusive writer Alice (Gemma Arterton) in the idyllic English coast of Sussex during World War Two. Alice is lonely and unfriendly, spending her days tapping on her typewriter until a young boy, Frank (Lucas Bond) is assigned to live with her. Frank has been evacuated from London during the Blitz when the Germans pummeled the capital with bombs.

Suddenly, grouchy Alice must take care of chipper, young Frank and open her heart and home to him. This means eventually revealing her secret of a past, forbidden love affair with Vera (Gugu Mbatha Raw) who left Alice during the Roaring Twenties to pursue a conventional family. The two women haven't seen each other since. To Alice's relief, young Frank actually sees nothing wrong Alice's lost love, and the two gradually grow close following some rocky false starts.

It takes a while for the film to build to its major turning  point when Alice must deliver to Frank the dreadful news of his father's death. However, that death unleashes an avalanche of events which spins the entire movie around [no spoilers here] and ties up all the major strands of the story.

Apart from the slowness of the first half, Summerland is a rewarding film that's full of heart. Not sentimental, thank God, since Alice is a tough customer, but the big twist rewards patient viewers. The directing is assured, and the English coastal is beautifully captured by Laurie Rose. Acting is fine all around, particularly the children, Bond and Dixie Egerickx, playing Frank's schoolfriend, Edie, stand out.

Summerland is a fine way to cap your summer viewing.

Summerland is released on VOD on August 21.

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