Eye For Film >> Movies >> Summerland (2020) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
The thing about romantic comedies is that they can create a false impression of how dating works. It's one thing to enjoy them on the screen, but carrying that level of optimism into real life is, whilst endearing, liable to lead to disaster. Bray (Chris Ball) sees himself as the hero of that kind of film, somebody for whom everything is destined to work out, even though the guy of his dreams is straight, uses a Christian dating portal and is under the false impression that Bray is a girl.
Bray's plan was to meet Shawn (Dylan Playfair) at the upcoming Summerland music festival, where, he was sure, he could persuade him to explore a hidden attraction to men. He was planning to travel there with his best friend, Oliver (Rory J Saper). The problem is, he's been using photographs of Oliver's girlfriend Stacey (Maddie Phillips) to complete his female online identity, and now Stacey is planning to come along too.
The bulk of this film is concerned not with the festival itself but with the road trip the trio takes to get there, stopping off at beauty spots along the way, connecting with old and extremely unreliable friends, taking drugs, spending too much money and generally getting themselves into scrapes. Although Bray's awkward situation forms the central plank of the story, there's a lot more going on. Oliver is in the country on a student visa which is now running out, and has to find a way to explain to Stacey that he'll be returning to England. he and Bray have the sort of happy-go-lucky friendship that may or may not survive when placed under strain. Stacey, meanwhile, has a strained relationship with her wealthy stepfather and wants to settle down with Oliver, not understanding why he's unwilling to commit.
Each of these young people could stand to know themselves better, but director Lankyboy approaches the drama with a light touch, letting them learn small lessons along the way as they bumble around having fun and sometimes hurting each other and sometimes making their own lives unnecessarily difficult. There's a good deal of comedy and the sun-soaked landscapes capture the joy of being on the road in what, for Bray and Stacey at least, is probably their first big adventure. Stacey gets a taste of the independence that she wanted, and what that might mean, whilst Bray receives advice on more reliable way of meeting guys who might reciprocate his feelings - though when all is said and done, it's not clear that his starry eyed view of the world has really changed at all.
Engaging characters, well developed by the young cast, make this a film that's easy to enjoy, especially as Bray point blank refuses to succumb to the overwhelming anxiety with which some viewers will regard what lies ahead of him. It's a film about plunging into the current of life and hoping for the best, something we all need to do at one point or another - and about the friendships that we find along the way.Reviewed on: 13 Sep 2020