Summerland, the new film by directing duo Lankyboy (Kurtis David Harder and Noah Kentis) is a reliable summer road trip movie about friendship forged in the sun. There’s nothing new here, admittedly, but it’s all too sweet, fun and eminently likeable not to have a good time.
Setting off from the East Coast of America to a California festival called Summerland, a group of friends find themselves in a bit of a pickle. Bray (Chris Ball) has been catfishing a hunky Christian guy called Shawn (Dylan Playfair), pretending to be Stacey (Maddie Phillips), who is his best friend Oliver’s girlfriend. Bray thinks that if he can only meet Shawn in person at the festival, he might be able to convince his crush of his true sexuality. Obviously, romantic hi-jinks ensue.
Summerland mainly follows Bray, Oliver (Rory J. Saper) and Stacey as they drive to the festival in Stacey’s parents’ enormous RV. The three young actors are endlessly watchable – and it’s particularly fun to watch Saper awkwardly nail jokes while hiding a secret from his girlfriend. At times, it feels like Bray and Stacey are underwritten – despite having a handful of sensitive conversations about their own insecurities and ambitions – or maybe they’re just better suited to more serious drama.
Still, there’s plenty of fun to be had here – and it’s all beautiful to look at too. Every scene is captured in a sun-kissed filter, be it a magic mushroom trip lived out in the great outdoors or a Las Vegas detour clocking in at a cool $1200.
There’s a hopeful ending as well – Bray’s wishes for Shawn to realise he might actually be gay seem to offer a tiny seed of possibility, and Oliver is forced to finally take responsibility for his actions, and to pay closer attention to the hurt he might be causing those who love him most. There’s little new ground covered in Summerland, both in terms of the road trip genre and for the young adults figuring themselves out, but the film has an infectious charm and stylish energy. And in 2020, isn’t that exactly what we need?
- Director: Lankyboy
- Starring: Dion Arnold, Greg Auch, Chris Ball
- Release date: September 14 (Digital)