Jessica Swale (“Horrible Histories: The Movie – Rotten Romans”, “The Complete Walk: The Tempest (Short)”) brings us her latest movie with Summerland, which she both wrote and directed.
We are by the sea in Kent during World War II and with our main character Alice, Gemma Arterton (“Quantum Of Solace”, “Clash Of The Titans”), as she writes her latest book about folklore and fairy tales.
Alice lives on her own, likes being on her own, hates interruptions. This is tough luck when Frank, Toby Osmond (“Game Of Thrones (TV)”, “Modern Life Is Rubbish”), arrives on her doorstep.
Frank is an evacuee from London and has been assigned to Alice, much to her consternation. Alice doesn’t want the interruption; Frank is a bit shellshocked about the whole thing.
Somewhat inevitably, this grumpy woman spends time with Frank and begins to thaw. She also starts to reminisce about her time with a woman, Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (TV)”, “The Cloverfield Paradox”), some time ago.
They spent time together, got know each other, intimately, but, this being back ‘during the war’, this wasn’t allowed. Also, Gugu has a husband, and wants children.
They split, lost touch, Alice ending up on the edge of the UK, Gugu staying in London. Will they ever meet again? Will Alice ever completely thaw?
If this all sounds more than a touch familiar it’s because it is. Summerland is basically a re-telling of the 1998 TV Movie “Goodnight, Mister Tom”, which starred John Thaw. In that, Thaw plays a disgruntled old man who has an evacuee thrust upon him and the two end up forming a bond. Obviously “Goodnight, Mister Tom” misses out the female side of things.
Summerland has plenty of humour, the juxtaposition of Frank entering Alice’s life sets this up and Swale runs with it. There are also plenty of moments of heart and feeling.
However, the story is so obvious it could have been written on the side of the white cliffs that regularly make an appearance. You know what’s going to happen, we’ve seen it a million times before and sadly Summerland fails to bring anything new to the story.
Sure, it has humour, there are some good performances and it’s beautifully shot. It’s just a shame the story doesn’t manage to live up to what we see. We’d seek out “Goodnight, Mister Tom” instead.
Summerland will be released in UK cinemas on 31st July 2020.