We first meet Alice, a cranky septuagenarian author (Penelope Wilton), banging away on her typewriter and telling neighbourhood children to “bugger off”.
Cut back 30 years to a Kent village in wartime 1940, when the prickly Alice (Gemma Arterton) is reluctantly landed with a schoolboy evacuee from the London blitz.
“I don’t want him. He can stay for a week,” she snaps.
Of course it takes no time for the lonely young Frank (Lucas Bond) to melt her heart.
Frank’s father is a pilot in the RAF and his mother works for the war effort. They sent their son away to escape London’s nightly bombing.
Frank stays on with Alice and as they share their stories she recalls her university days in the 1920s, when she had a passionate affair with her great love, Vera (Gugu Mbatha Raw).
Since Vera left, because she wanted to marry and have a child, Alice has led a solitary life in the village, where the locals are mildly mistrustful, and the children call her a witch.
The film builds to a crisis when Frank suffers a shattering loss.
Though the final resolution is rather contrived, Summerland makes for enjoyable viewing – a gentle romantic drama from first-time director and playwright Jessica Swale.
The acting is excellent, including a minor role by Tom Courtenay as a kindly schoolmaster, and the idyllic English countryside is beautifully pictured by cinematographer Laurie Rose.
Summerland is among 22 films in the 2020 British film festival, showing from November 11 to 29 at Luna Leederville, Luna On SX, Palace Raine Square and the Windsor Cinema.
Full details at britishfilmfestival.com.au or in brochures available from the venues.
Watch the trailer…