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SUMMERLAND: 3 ½ STARS. “a feel-good movie that never digs too deep.”

A wartime British story driven by character and emotion rather than action, “Summerland,” now on VOD, is a showcase for its actors, Gemma Arterton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Tom Courtenay.

Arterton is Alice Bloom, a chainsmoking writer who lives alone in a quaint seaside cottage in Kent. She’s a loner, prone to castigating anyone who interrupts her work. Among her neighbors, who have frequently felt the sting of her tongue, rumors fly that she is a witch, or worse, a Nazi sympathizer.

When she’s not typing furiously her thoughts drift backwards in time to the defining moment of her life, a love affair Vera ((Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Alice was left heartbroken when Vera broke off the relationship, leaving for a man and the promise of a family. With bombs dropping on London, Alice becomes the unwelcoming host to Frank (Lucas Bond), a youngster evacuated from his city home as part of Operation Pied Piper.

She’s less than excited about having to care for the boy and Frank isn’t pleased either. Even less so when a school mate (Dixie Egerickx) warns him that Alice will “burn you and do sex things to you.” Over time and through tragedy, however, a bond unexpectedly forms between them.

“Summerland” is a feel-good movie that never digs too deep. It’s central life-is-not-fair theme is given a melodramatic treatment that leans toward the contrived but the relationships between the characters elevates the material. As Alice lets her guard down to accept and nurture Frank, and he, in turn embraces her, the story transcends the predictability of its plot to find a sweet, tender and pleasing spot. It’s aided by beautiful cinematography courtesy of Laurie Rose and lovely production design, but make no mistake, the heart of this story is the characters and the actors who bring them to vivid life.

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