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film review

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, left, and Gemma Arterton in Summerland.Michael Wharley/IFC

  • Summerland
  • Written and directed by Jessica Swale
  • Starring Gemma Arterton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Lucas Bond
  • Classification PG; 99 minutes

Rating:

2.5 out of 4 stars


If we are to accept that there are certain performers who never get their due, then the career of Gemma Arterton will go down in film history as one of the industry’s greatest missed opportunities. The British actor has been so compelling and at the same time so underappreciated that it is almost as if any project she attaches herself to is destined to be unfairly forgotten. I fear that her (long off, I’m sure) obituary will lead with her role as Bond girl Strawberry Fields in the embarrassing Quantum of Solace, and then it will simply cut off.

Maybe, though, if the gods (i.e. audiences) are kind, Arterton’s life and times will be at least slightly defined by her role in Summerland, a kind and sentimental Second World War drama that is seriously elevated by Arterton’s presence. Playing a reclusive writer in Kent who is asked to foster a young boy (Lucas Bond) seeking shelter from a bombed-out London, Arterton imbues writer-director Jessica Swale’s gentle work with more emotional weight than its filmmaker can otherwise muster.

Although a third-act twist threatens to torpedo everything that Arterton gives to the production, the actor still comes through the film with her pride intact. Summerland may not be the greatest show on Earth, but it is firmly Arterton’s show – and deserves more attention than most anyone on these shores will likely give it.

Summerland is available digitally on-demand starting Aug. 21

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