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Summerland (2020) Movie Review

World War II is arguably the most important historical moment of all time. Not surprisingly there have been a lot of movies created that have been based around World War II. Many of these either focus on the battles themselves, or the Holocaust and Nazi occupation. One element of the war that doesn’t get much attention is how the war affected people that weren’t directly involved in the fighting. When I saw Summerland I was intrigued as the movie is about the relocation of children during the war and the war’s toll on people away from the conflict. Summerland starts a little slow, but it tells an engaging World War II story driven by interesting characters and strong acting.

We would like to thank IFC Films for the screener of Summerland used for this review. Other than receiving the screener we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the screener had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.

Summerland takes place in a small town on the coastline of Southern England during World War II. The film follows a reclusive writer named Alice. Many people in town are not particularly fond of Alice as the local children refer to her as a witch. This is partially due to her reclusive nature and attitude, but it also due to the fact that she is a single woman living alone during an era where that wasn’t common which leads to local gossip. Due to the ongoing war children are being moved from the major cities to towns like Alice’s. One day a boy named Frank is placed into Alice’s home while his parents help with the war effort. At first Alice is reluctant as she is mostly a loner and never really cared for children. As the two get to know each other Alice’s feelings start to change as she grows closer to Frank. With their lives upended by war Alice and Frank must help one another through trying times.

At its core Summerland feels like your typical historical drama. The story takes place during the height of World War II in an area that hasn’t really been impacted from the fighting as it is in a more remote area of England. Summerland is an original story as it is not based on any real people, but it is built around historical events. While it takes place during World War II it is not like your typical war movie. There are literally no battles or fighting in the movie, as it takes place in an area that hasn’t been impacted by the war yet. Instead the movie is more about how World War II impacted people that weren’t directly involved in the fighting.

I would say that Summerland is a story of love, loss, and adjusting to a world at war. Most of the movie revolves around Alice and Frank’s relationship. Alice is a loner that mostly wants to be left alone and has no real interest outside of her work. Frank is dealing with being sent away from his family for his own safety as well as worrying about his parents safety. The two don’t have much in common at first, but they soon realize that they share more in common than they first thought. This is the area where I think the movie really succeeds. The relationship between Alice and Frank really drives the movie as they help each other through tough times.

In addition to this Summerland has an underlining love story. Years earlier Alice was in love with a woman named Vera. Being as the movie is set during World War II, this relationship was not generally accepted during that era. The love story is told through flashbacks as Alice remembers the time she spent with Vera and what ultimately lead to its end. This subplot mostly revolves around finding love in an era that was not particularly accepting of it.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise but Summerland is not a particularly action packed movie. As I mentioned earlier despite taking place during World War II there are no battles or fighting in the movie. There are only a few scenes in the movie that contain any significant action. The movie is basically what you would expect from a character driven historical drama. Instead of focusing on action it is more interested in developing the characters. Due to this I would say that Summerland does start on the slower side. I wouldn’t say that the beginning is boring, but it does take some time to get its footing. Summerland does pick up quite a bit later in the movie though. As you get to know the characters you really start to care about them. There are also some twists to the story (which I won’t talk about to avoid spoilers) which help the movie pick up its pace.

I think the reason that Summerland succeeds is due to the characters. Summerland is a character driven movie after all. I thought the characters were well crafted as you really start to care about what happens to them. Summerland is more of a drama, but there are also some funny moments from time to time. There are some dark moments, but the movie for the most part is a feel good story. I attribute a lot of this to the acting. Gemma Arterton does a great job in the main role of Alice. The other actors do a good job in their roles as well.

Ultimately I found Summerland to be a pretty good film. In a lot of ways the movie is what you would expect from a historical drama. While it takes place during World War II it is not your typical war movie as it is focused more on people dealing with the consequences of the war. The movie is a character driven story about two characters that are going through rough times that need to rely on one another. This leads to the movie starting a little slow as you get to know the characters, but it picks up quite a bit around the midpoint. Basically my recommendations comes down to your thoughts on the movie’s premise. If it doesn’t sound that interesting to you, Summerland probably won’t be for you. Those who think Summerland sounds like your type of movie though will probably enjoy it.

Summerland is available on select theaters, video on demand, and digitally on July 31st, 2020.

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