Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Movie with Abe: Summerland

Directed by Jessica Swale
Released July 31, 2020 (VOD)

It’s often said that you can’t choose the family you’re born into but you can choose the family you live with. For some, that may mean reacting to a negative upbringing by surrounding themselves with loving and warm people. For others, it can result in not trusting anyone and living a solitary existence, never getting close for fear of being hurt. People choose not to start families for a variety of reasons, which includes the notion that someone wouldn’t be a good parent. It’s impossible to know, however, until a person actually becomes a parent and gets to experience it for themselves.

Alice (Gemma Arterton) is a writer in a small cliffside Southern England town during World War II who keeps to herself and has earned a reputation for being crotchety, frequently tormented by young pranksters eager to play a joke on the recluse. Alice is startled when she is informed that she will now be responsible for housing a young evacuee, Frank (Lucas Bond), a duty assumed by many locals during the war. Separated from his parents, both actively in danger in London, Frank forms a friendship with Edie (Dixie Egerickx), a fellow student at school, and tries to build a rapport with the woman counting down the hours until Mr. Sullivan (Tom Courtenay) can find him a new temporary home.

One common interest that Alice and Frank are able to find is the subject of Alice’s research for her latest book, which deals with Summerland, a pagan concept of heaven. Its imaginative nature appeals to Frank, and though she doesn’t want to have to explain what she’s doing to anyone, Alice seems somewhat pleased to not have someone outright reject her ideas for once. As Frank wrestles with the uncertainty of knowing what will happen to his parents, Alice is haunted by memories of the one relationship (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) she did allow herself to have. Their experiences are separate but equally compelling, particularly in how they come together as, despite Alice’s efforts, a bond does begin to form between the two of them.

Arterton has turned in terrific performances in films like “Tamara Drewe,” “The Disappearance of Alice Creed,” “Their Finest,” and “Vita and Virginia.” Here, she’s full of aggressive personality, determined to be left alone when the world has other plans of her. She and the young Bond are wonderful together, and he truly is an incredible discovery. Mbatha-Raw, Courtenay, Penelope Wilton, and the rest of the ensemble contribute to a film whose story is legitimately interesting and captivating, traveling a beautifully-decorated road to acceptance and happiness.


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