The aspect of myth comes down in many ways to the notion of metaphor versus what might be going on in the actual world. In times of war, it becomes an interesting motif since it tends to reflect more in the idea of escapism. With a story like “Summerland” which is set during World War II in a small town near the Cliffs Of Dover, it becomes more about the texture of acceptance and perception. It is the story of a woman who lives her life alone for a reason, burned in a way by love, which leaves her alienated just as much by the circumstance as she is by the time. Gemma Arterton who rose to prominence in large scale films like “Quantum Of Solace” and “Clash Of The Titans” devotes herself more to character work here. Her foil in many ways is two-fold. One is in the past with Gugu Mbatha-Raw who plays Vera and Lucas Bond who plays Frank in her present day. Because of the war and children being shepherded away from London because of the Blitz, Alice ends up taking care of Frank because of an edict to take in children displaced. “Bedknobs & Broomsticks” used a similar construct.
The relationship starts off as all similar situations do but these two disparate yet similar souls start to teach each other about acceptance. However, the idea of masks and perceptions begin to take a toll. There is an earnestness and a ease to the relationship as it is balanced with the flashbacks to Alice & Vera spending times together (which honestly is portrayed more as dreamlike — but that might be Alice’s remembrance since the movie is primarily from her POV). What gives the movie a bit of edge is having Frank have a young friend, both open minded and yet close, precocious and yet piratical in Dixie Egerickx’s Edie who is able to walk a thin line of a girl independent but still of that age. It is a maturity which is both effective and yet unrefined in a good way in terms of acting style. The story of course to a head in terms of perspective and sometimes resorts too readily into melodrama. Also the film is bookended to give a sense of completion which is alright but in may ways too neatly packed. The overall myth of a floating city and how that keys into the psychology of the characters, grasping at a peace just beyond their fingertips which they can’t reach, is an apt metaphor and keys into the greater themes of the film.
By Tim Wassberg