Set mostly during World War II, Summerland takes place on the beautiful and remote southern coast of England. Misanthropic writer Alice (Gemma Arterton, Vita & Virginia, Tamara Drewe) lives in a small village where the kids think she’s a witch, and the rest of the villagers leave her a wide berth. She’s fine with that since she’s hard at work writing while pining away for the loss of her one great love. Then one day she opens her door and a young boy named Frank (Lucas Bond) is there – an evacuee from London who expects to live with her. To say she’s reluctant to take him in would be a gross understatement. But of course she does and little by little they grow to care about one other. It’s a pretty familiar story, and it feels a bit like an episode of one of your favorite BBC series. But it’s also a pleasant, heart-warming diversion we can lose ourselves in for a time during this virus obsessed period.
The film is bookended by a much older Alice (Penelope Wilton, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) sitting at her typewriter, writing the story of her time with Frank, and her love story with Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Motherless Brooklyn, Beauty and the Beast) who left her behind because she wanted to have a family. When Alice meets Frank, she’s hard at work on a book about pagan myths and folklore about cities in the sky. And it brings them together, chasing clouds and talking about the afterlife that the pagans believed in. But when tragedy strikes Frank’s family, Alice is unprepared to deal with it and almost loses him. But fear not, everything works out better that you could possible expect by the end.
That ending is more than a bit contrived, but it caps off an entertaining sentimental story of love and friendship. If you’re looking to get away from it all to a beautiful spot on the coast, Summerland is your ticket. (Your other choice, if you’re looking for a creepier seaside trip, is The Rental)
The film is streaming on various sites, including Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Vudu, and Google Play.
[Mainstream Chick’s take: Gemma absolutely commands the screen; I wish there’d been more Gugu; and I was lukewarm on the casting of Frank. All in all, though, a pleasant escape with a couple of worthy opportunities to get moved and misty-eyed. -hb]