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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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).
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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?
- In theaters: July 31, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: November 17, 2020
- Cast: Gemma Arterton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Penelope Wilton
- Director: Jessica Swale
- Studio: IFC Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic content, some suggestive comments, language, and smoking
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: November 16, 2020
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