It is the height of the Blitz during World War II and Alice lives alone in a cottage on the English coast. Unpopular in the town, she is seen as a witch by some of the children due to her seemingly misanthropic attitude and staunch individualism.
One day her world changes when she is given an evacuee, Frank, who has been sent from London to a safer place. She makes it clear she doesn’t want him, but gradually their relationship develops. As it does, Alice’s secret past comes to the fore, and eventually merges in an unexpected way, with her present.
The delightful Gemma Arterton stars as Alice (and is also one of the Executive Producers), giving a fine and measured performance, which never turns Alice into a caricature. Young actor Lucas Bond is outstanding as Frank, and his chemistry with Arterton is a joy to behold. Acting royalty makes an appearance in the form of Tom Courtenay as the school principal. And the unfailingly good Penelope Wilton delivers a beautiful cameo as the older Alice. Rounding out the cast is Gugu Mbatha-Raw, last seen in Motherless Brooklyn.
Summerland is written and directed by Jessica Swale. An award-winning play and screen writer, this is her feature directorial debut. Her script is finely observed, as is her direction. There is a humanity and warmth that pervades every scene, along with authentic humour.
The war-time setting has given production designer Christina Moore some great material to work with, and cinematographer Laurie Rose guides the shots with a sympathetic hand.
This is the classic British film: moving, humorous, gentle, and impossible not to like. It may not set the cinematic world on fire, but it may just start a little flame up in your heart!