Summerland

Movie review by
Stefan Pape, Common Sense Media
Summerland Movie Poster Image
Moving, relatable WWII drama about grief and lost love.
  • PG
  • 2020
  • 99 minutes

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Grief is a leading theme. But the movie thrives in the idea of not letting life's hardships get you down and to always come back stronger and find the joy that still remains in the world. Characters show kindness -- even if they're initially reluctant to do so -- and are proud of who they are.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though initially against the idea of being a mother figure to Frank, Alice comes to thrive in this new role. She helps teach him independence and resilience (in a bit of a tough-love way, but it ultimately helps him). She does deceive him, however, and fails to reveal important information, out of both fear and love. In return, Frank brings out the best in Alice with his kindness and childlike innocence. Alice isn't ashamed of her sexual identity, despite the time period/conservative place she lives, and is proud of who she loves (one scene suggests that her fellow villagers aren't very tolerant). Positive representation via a series of flashbacks that show Alice, who's White, in a relationship with a Black woman -- though their race has no bearing on the plot.

Violence

Tense scenes set in a London bomb shelter; aftermath of bombing shown (wrecked buildings, dusty people, possibility of death). Death of a parent occurs off screen; causes sadness. Reference to soldiers dying in combat. Character suffers a grazed, bloody knee after falling over as the result of being picked on by other children. A child falls into the sea and is seen flailing in the water -- but they remain unharmed. Arguments, yelling.

Sex

Brief bath scene, but no nudity. Two adult characters shown in a loving relationship; they have a strong chemistry, and sex is implied, but nothing graphic is shown.

Language

Character tells children to "bugger off." A character sarcastically threatens a child while pretending to be a Nazi.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The lead character purchases cigarettes from a local shop in the opening scene and proceeds to smoke at regular intervals throughout the movie -- sometimes in front of children, and often while working.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Summerland is a tender World War II drama that focuses on grief in a way that both adults and children will be able to relate to and understand. It centers on Alice (Gemma Arterton), a reclusive writer who has no interest in motherhood until she takes in a young evacuee named Frank (Lucas Bond). While the movie explores the futility and waste of war -- including the off-screen death of a parent -- it's primarily about overcoming life's setbacks. A few tense scenes take place during a London bomb raid (the upsetting aftermath is shown), the theme of death lingers, characters argue, and there's a brief example of bullying between children. Alice, who's gay, is proud of her sexual identity, even though she's sometimes nervous how others who are more conservative will perceive her as a result. Flashbacks portray her loving relationship with Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who's Black, but their skin color is incidental to the story. They share a powerful chemistry, and a few scenes suggest the intimacy of their time together, but nothing really racy is shown. Language is also mild, but Alice does smoke throughout (accurate for the time period). 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byElizabeth L. August 7, 2020

Lovely if a bit cloying

I watched this with my ten year-old son who loves all things WW2. He enjoyed it, and it led to some good questions about why people keep secrets and whether the... Continue reading
Adult Written byMYOS4 August 28, 2020

Understanding war and grief, for big kids and tweens

The story is very approachable for kids 8-13 or so, despite some heavy themes (war and grief), because the heavy themes aren't graphic just relatable, and... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byLoranikas303 November 27, 2020
Don't let 10 year old to see sex but nothing graphic is shown.

What's the story?

SUMMERLAND is set during World War II and tells the story of writer Alice (Gemma Arterton), who's surprised one day when discovering she is to provide housing for young London evacuee Frank (Lucas Bond). Though she had no intention to open her door to the boy, Alice eventually opens her heart, discovering that she shares more in common with Frank than she had initially bargained for.

Is it any good?

This movie may begin as your archetypal British wartime drama, but just as the characters are continuously surprised, so will viewers be, as it slowly begins to tug at your heartstrings. Summerland is full of charm, and it never compromises on its more moving, profound elements. It's an impressive juggling act for director Jessica Swale, who manages to balance the matriarchal narrative between Alice and Frank with the horrors of war, as well as the vital romantic narrative that we see through flashbacks.

What helps is the impressive turn from the ever-dependable Arterton, who brings powerful humanity to every role she takes on. The supporting cast all do their bit, too. Gugu Mbatha-Raw shines as Alice's love interest, Vera, and Penelope Wilton and Tom Courtenay bring a touch of class to proceedings. Alice and Vera's romance does feel a little undeveloped in parts and perhaps could have been explored in greater depth, but there's only so much you can fit into one feature-length film.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the backdrop of World War II in Summerland. What did you know about evacuee children before you saw the movie? How do you think those children felt at the time? Do you need violent battlefield scenes to show the impact of war?

  • Grief is an overriding theme in the movie. Have you ever experienced the loss of someone or something you loved? What helped you get through it? See our list of movies to help kids deal with grief.

  • What do Alice and Frank learn from each other over the course of the movie? What character strengths do they demonstrate?

  • Alice smokes throughout the movie. Does the movie glamorize smoking? If not, why not? What's the impact of the era the film takes place in?

  • Alice and Vera's relationship falters over their inability to start a family together. Do you think that would still be a problem today? How important is it that we can love whoever we want? What does "family" mean to you?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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