As cinemas have reopened again, more theatrical releases are coming to our screens. Jessica Swale’s Summerland is one of them. Admittedly, when I went to see this film, I had no idea what it was about, I was just so excited to be back in the cinema chair that the worst film on earth would have pleased me. Luckily, this was not the case for Summerland.
The drama, set in the 1940s amidst the war, follows Alice, a young woman living contently alone before her quiet world is interrupted by the arrival of Frank, an evacuee from London who is sent to live with her. The foundations of the storyline are exactly as you would expect: reclusive woman is irritated by the arrival of an unwanted child until they form a bond that teaches her how to let people in and care about them once again. It is a story that has been used, in different variations, a million times and thus a lot of the storytelling in Summerland is riddled with clichés.
The main character who just so happens to be a writer producing a novel about the events we see on screen is a narrative trope used more often than it needs to be and felt unnecessary here. The typical jump forward in time at the beginning and end of the film did not add to the emotional impact of the plot or take up enough screen time to feel worthwhile. Yet, having said that, Summerland did not feel like a boring replay of something I had already seen.
Maybe I am just oblivious, but I for one did not see the twist midway through coming.
Maybe I am just oblivious, but I for one did not see the twist midway through coming. Before the twist was revealed I had found myself questioning what the story was going to do that would make it different to any film that had followed this narrative before. I want to avoid spoilers for anyone with an interest in this film so I will be vague.
The connection of Alice’s past and present circumstances was an element that I adored and one that enriched the viewing experience for the audience. It actually made me gasp out loud whilst simultaneously thinking “well of course that’s what this is!”. The shift altered the purpose and tone of the story at the exact moment the film was in need of a change, without it this would be a very different review.
leading lesbian relationship was refreshing to see in the war drama genre
The leading lesbian relationship was refreshing to see in the war drama genre and was represented in a heart-warming and raw way, making it very easy to fall in love with their love. Whilst the role of Alice was played excellently by Gemma Arterton, it was not my favourite performance. Surprisingly, young actress Dixie Egerickx stole the show for me in her role as Edie. Both her and Lucas Bond, who played Frank, did fantastically as the child leads of the film holding up their roles as strongly as the adults. Swale’s directing was also brilliant throughout. The capturing of outdoor spaces and use of natural lighting was beautifully presented on screen. I eagerly anticipate where she will go with her future projects.
Did Summerland leave me speechless with its philosophies and ‘life lessons’? No, but I do not believe that every film, regardless of whether it attempts to or not, needs to have that impact in order to be enjoyable. It has all the classic scenes you would expect to find in a drama and therefore if that is not your thing then you will, for obvious reasons, hate this film. For me, Summerland was a lovely piece of cinema to watch on a quiet evening with my mum and those kinds of films tend to be the ones that leave me smiling the most.