Summerland is a very good film that is well worth your time, and it's an excellent showcase for Gemma Arterton's acting talents.

Film Review: Summerland

Film Reviews

Director: Jessica Swale

Quickfire Films
In Theaters and Streaming on Video on Demand: 07.31

Long ago, I stopped being the type of moviegoer who saw a film because of a celebrity crush, in part because it just feels kind of silly past the age of 30, but perhaps even more so because the combined careers of Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry just made it unbearable. But I will confess that I’m not immune from this motivation, and any time Gemma Arterton or Gugu Mbatha-Raw show up in a film, I say a prayer to the movie Gods that it will at least be watchable, because Gemma is quite a gem and I am gaga for Gugu.

Summerland tells the story of Alice Lamb (Arterton) a reclusive writer who lives by the seaside in a small village in Kent during World War II, during which she is forced by circumstance to take in Frank (Lucas Bond), a young boy from London. Though Alice famously dislikes children and sees Frank’s arrival as a nuisance, she reluctantly lets him stay, believing that he has nowhere else to go and she will be able to be rid of him in a week. But Alice and Frank end up defying all expectations—except those of the audience—as they form a tight bond, and Alice begins to realize they have more in common than she ever expected.

Writer-Director Jessica Swale, an acclaimed playwright and stage director, does quite well with her feature debut. The film is also well timed, as the past few months have brought a lot of comparisons to life during the 1940s from those of who have no basis for comparison beyond books and movies. It’s an engrossing and often touching melodrama that rests heavily on Arteron’s shoulders, but she’s more than up to the task. The chemistry between Arterton and young Bond is considerable, and the supporting cast, which includes Mbatha-Raw as a pivotal figure from Alice’s past, is splendid, especially Tom Courtenay as a local official who keeps a close eye on Alice and Frank.

The storyline features some twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, and while they all end up making sense in the context of the story and had me on the edge of my seat more than once, the resolution felt a bit too convenient to me as it all wraps up in a nice, neat little package—as Homer Simpson would say. It feels a bit like Swale fell in love with her characters and simply couldn’t bear not giving them a happily ever after (with one very notable exception that I had trouble getting past) and part of me thinks an overall bleaker ending would have better served the film.

Despite some of these narrative flaws, Summerland is a very good film that is well worth your time, and it’s an excellent showcase for Arterton’s acting talents. And at only an hour and 40 minutes, it flies right by. If you’re looking for a good rental, or even want to see something new in a theater, you could do a lot worse than this enjoyable and heartfelt film. –Patrick Gibbs