Set on an English shore less than typically idyllic against the impending Nazi blitz, a child is evacuated from London and lodged with Alice (Gemma Arterton); a local writer whom the village call reclusive and the children a witch.
If this sounds anything like Bedknobs and Brooksticks, its very different.
There’s a charm to the odd pairing in this most British of films complete with a metaphor at the centre of the title elicited throughout, and a very neat one at that. Treading familiar ground before a few about turns in the second and third acts, the first major revelation, an evident fait accompli, manages what few films do in itself effectively masking the more consequential and interesting dimensions soon laid bare.
Reaching its height in the second act with well-sustained tension over the delivery of awful news, the nature of the dilemma plays out in a less than expected and thoroughly abrupt, memorable manner. While Lucas Bond is not inconsistently good as the impromptu ward, amongst the younger performers Dixie Egerickx emerges best; she could just as well have played a larger if not the lead role.
Turning to the romantic dimensions, Summerland commences in depicting Alice and Vera’s (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) former relationship in flashback; a matter that would predictably not be considered generally acceptable amongst the pair’s contemporaries. While there is an intimacy resplendent in the scenes shared their physical interaction is greatly implied in a manner reminiscent of how cinematic ventures of like nature from decades past regularly broached similar subject matter. This is to the extent that the absence of explicit representations is rendered overly conspicuous and oft distracting in light of that heavily and regularly implied.
To be clear as to the nature of this observation, this author does not take the view that for a romantic relationship to be rendered palpable that any physical dimensions thereof need be so greatly represented on screen. Far from it, so much significant can be achieved by focusing on the emotive or convivial facets alone. If however the physical dimensions which can impart much are to be addressed then doing so in such a fleeting, veiled manner, while surely rendering the film more accessible for some, now has the effect of labouring such a feature with the limitations of its forbears that obfuscated rather than furthered that so significant to their stories.
Summerland screens as part of the British Film Festival, as part of the Queer Screen – Mardi Gras Film Festival on February 27, 2021 & March 3, 2021 at Event Cinemas George Street, as part of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival on March 21, 2021 and as part of the Geelong Pride Film Festival on May 14, 2021