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Jessica Swale
Gemma Arterton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Penelope Wilton
Writing Credits:
Jessica Swale

During World War II, an Englishwoman opens her heart to an evacuee after initially resolving to be rid of him.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English PCM 2.0
English Audio Description
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 11/17/2020

• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• Cast/Crew Interviews
• Trailer & Previews


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Summerland [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 12, 2020)

Where would we be without stories of misanthropes who learn to open their hearts? With a lot fewer movies, and 2020’s Summerland offers another in this vein.

Set during World War II, Nazi bombs fall on London and require the evacuation of local children. This leads young Frank (Lucas Bond) to relocation along the shore of Southern England.

Frank gets placed with Alice Lamb (Gemma Arterton), a reclusive writer who wants nothing to do with him. However, she finds herself forced to take in the youngster, and the pair gradually develops a bond based on shared concerns.

Arterton’s prominent early roles cast her as beautiful characters in movies like Quantum of Solace, Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. With the decidedly unglamorous Alice, Arterton finds her far from that territory.

With the cranky, plain-looking Alice, Arterton divulges from that past, and she runs into some dangers. For one, when movies attempt to “deglam” gorgeous women, it usually fails miserably, as we still see their beauty.

Summerland succeeds in that regard, as it officially manages to make Arterton look plain. While she never seems truly unattractive, Arterton subsumes her loveliness better than I’d anticipate.

In addition, a role like Alice could lean toward “Oscar bait” territory, where it feels like the actor took the part mostly to show that they can act! A little of that comes around here, but Arterton represses her urges to overplay the role.

Too bad she does so in the service of such a lackluster tale. Summerland often feels like a melange of elements taken from other movies, and it never develops a personality of its own.

To a degree, Summerland follows two stories, as we see Alice’s “present-day” interactions with Frank along with flashbacks to her ill-fated romance with Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). While most of the movie traces the former, we get a lot of the latter, mainly as a way to show why Alice became so bitter.

This bifurcation turns into an issue, mainly because the flashbacks don’t work. Through much of the film, they seem unnecessary, as we don’t need to know the roots of Alice’s misanthropy. I feel like the movie would fare better if it simply stayed with the flourishing Alice/Frank connection.

Summerland eventually makes the Alice/Vera relationship more important to the overall plot, but it does so in the cheesiest way imaginable. A discussion of this would enter spoiler territory, so I’ll avoid that, but suffice it to say that a third act twist made me roll my eyes so hard I don’t know if they’ll ever recover.

Indeed, the entire final third of Summerland goes off the rails. What proceeded as a fairly straightforward “broken woman becomes whole” narrative careens down such a silly path that the film can’t rebound.

Not that Summerland excelled before that. As I noted, the movie should’ve focused almost exclusively on the Alice/Frank tale, and that side could’ve made it fairly engaging, but the flashbacks distract.

When Summerland does stick with Alice and Frank, it does reasonably well for itself. Arterton gives a suitably believable take on the chilly woman who opens her heart, and Bond manages to avoid the usual hammy kid pitfalls. We buy their connection and enjoy the ways they develop.

Unfortunately, Summerland can’t leave well enough alone. Too many melodramatic choices and silly twists make it an erratic character journey.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Summerland appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a satisfying presentation.

Sharpness tended to be positive. A few shots showed a smidgen of softness, usually during interiors, where a lack of light led to a mild lack of definition. Overall, though, detail seemed good.

I noticed no signs of jaggies or edge enhancement, and shimmering was absent. The film lacked print flaws and seemed clean.

Despite the period setting, Summerland went with a heavy teal impression, and some amber as well. These appeared fine within the film’s stylistic choices.

Blacks seemed dark and tight, and shadows demonstrated good clarity. I found this to be worth a “B+”.

A character drama wouldn’t seem to be a candidate for a dynamic soundtrack, and the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Summerland fell into expected realms. A few scenes – by the sea, on roads, war-related, etc. – used the various channels well. Those instances remained the exception to the rule, though, so expect a subdued mix the vast majority of the time.

Audio quality satisfied. The music was full and rich, while effects showed nice clarity and accuracy.

Speech – obviously an important factor here – appeared concise and crisp. Nothing here soared, but it all seemed positive for the material at hand.

A Behind the Scenes featurette goes for 16 minutes, 55 seconds. It provides a “fly on the wall” view of the shoot. “Scenes” feels artsier than most of the genre – with some odd angles and long, languid shots of scenery that seem unnecessary – but it gives us a decent look at the production.

Under Interviews, we see 16 separate segments. These span a total of one hour, 33 minutes, 53 seconds.

The “Interviews” feature writer/director Jessica Swale (8:43), producers Adrian Sturges (11:19) and Guy Heeley (10:53), costume designer Claire Finlay (1:44), set decorator Philippa Hart (6:37), art department designer Christina Moore (9:05), hair and makeup designer Lisa Cavalli-Green (2:29), production sound mixer Nigel Albermaniche (4:10), location manager Peter-Frank Dewulf (2:47), unit stills photographer Michael Wharley (4:12) and actors Gemma Arterton (9:34), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (9:47), Penelope Wilton (4:11), Tom Courtenay (3:36), Dixie Egerickx (2:19) and Lucas Bond (2:27).

Across these, we learn about the project’s roots and development, story/characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, costumes, hair, makeup, and audio.

I admit I wish the disc’s producers had merged all these clips into a more comprehensive documentary about the film, as we get a lot of repetition over the segments. Still, with more than an hour and a half of content, we still learn plenty about the shoot, so these interviews became erratic but worthwhile.

The disc opens with an ad for Pele. We also get a trailer for Summerland.

When it concentrates on the basics of a character tale, Summerland proves reasonably winning. Unfortunately, the movie relies on too many cheesy twists, and these undercut its appeal. The Blu-ray brings strong picture, appropriate audio and a few bonus materials. Despite some good performances, Summerland doesn’t gel.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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