summerlandSTARS4I like surprises.  Particularly when a movie exceeds my expectations.  Summerland is one of those films.  I am a big fan of British period dramas.  I admit I was already primed to enjoy this but I must’ve had my expectations set low.  I figured I was getting a pleasant period piece set against the backdrop of World War II.  It IS that but it is so much more.  This is a drama in which characters are routinely surprised.  So too will viewers be, happily.

Gemma Arterton portrays a reclusive writer named Alice during the 1940s. She lives alone in a coastal cottage in Kent.  The actress has been in a lot of middling action fantasies: Clash of the Titans (2010), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.  Her breakthrough as Bond girl Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace is perhaps her best-known role.  Summerland may be her most accomplished performance to date.  Arterton is still a young actress in her 30s, but her portrayal of an ill-tempered spinster is very convincing.  She’s merely an independent woman, but then again, admirable qualities often go unappreciated.  The local children think she’s either a witch or a spy.  Then she is entrusted with taking care of a 14-year-old evacuee during the London Blitz.

This is a deep and moving depiction of a complicated soul.  The rapport with charming curly-haired Frank (Lucas Bond) inspires her to open up.  A motherly connection develops and the two become close.  As her friendship with Frank deepens, warm recollections of the past are rekindled.  There are memories of someone Alice knew back in the 1920s named Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).  Their tender relationship is another detail loving portrayed in flashbacks.  Summerland is the feature debut of writer-director Jessica Swale who clearly fosters genuine chemistry amongst this ensemble of actors.  Swale’s direction is so assertive, you’d swear this was her tenth film.

Sentimentality isn’t a bad thing.  The screenplay values tenderness for the commendable trait that it is.  There is sort of an otherworldly quality to this hopeful account of the past.  Summerland is an expressive portrait.  This extends not just to emotional details but also in the exquisite cinematography by Laurie Rose that underscores every scene.  The picturesque landscapes are bathed in sunlight.  They practically beckon the audience to visit these stunning locales.  This is really a movie about humanity though.  It’s about people first. The gorgeous locations simply amplify the feelings.  Incidentally, I’m ready to book a trip to Kent, England right now.


2 Responses to “Summerland”

  1. After seeing the preview, I knew I was gonna love this. It did not disappoint. Touching story. One of my favs this year. 4 stars


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