Road trip movies are fun because it allows the filmmakers to explore their characters in situations that often we don’t find ourselves in. But they need to have interesting characters and relationships but also a premise that can be sustained. Summerland had potential and the acting and relationships are enough to make it something more, the problem is that Summerland can’t hit all the marks it needs too. It finds itself muddled into a story that never finds it’s footing and, quietly frankly, becomes boring when it should be entertaining.
I have nothing against slow-paced films honestly, sometimes they are even my favourite. The problem is that Summerland takes so long to establish itself that by the time it finally gets to what you want it to be, you just aren’t into it anymore. And then when things finally start to pick up, the movie comes to an alt and goes back to being super slow. Its inconsistency brings the film down and makes you forget that behind it all the characters are actually interesting and complex. All three of the leads are doing a great job, particularly Rory J. Saper (Rufus, The Legend of Tarzan) as Oliver. The friendship between Saper’s Oliver and Chris Ball’s Bray feels lived in and believable. The way they act together feels natural and brings the film to a level that I don’t think it would have reached otherwise. Then there’s Maddie Phillip’s (Teenage Bounty Hunters) Stacey that never feels fully formed but gives a performance that makes you forget that.
Catfishing films are weird for me. I know it something that happens in real life but I find the concept so cruel that it is hard for me to accept it. Too often the person who does the catfishing doesn’t really learn from their mistake or anything, they just move on as if they didn’t lead someone on for a while, often even getting something out of the person they were taking advantage of. And Summerland is just like that. The premise centers around Bray catfishing Shawn (Descendants 2 Dylan Playfair) and trying to meet up with him at a festival called Summerland. He brings along his best friend Oliver (Saper) and Oliver’s girlfriend Stacey (Phillips). The only problem is that he is using Stacey’s pictures to catfish Shawn. It sounds interesting enough and I would have been okay with the idea if by the end Bray would have had consequences for his actions but he doesn’t really. Yes, he learns that he needs to love himself before he can start loving anyone else but the fact that for most of the film he doesn’t seem to understand how bad what he is doing rubbed me the wrong way.
To me, Oliver is the most interesting character and I think if Bray’s story would have been a subplot-point and Oliver would have been the main character, I would have found the film more interesting. The nuance that Saper was able to bring to the screen and his presence dictated much of my attention and I was barely able to take my eyes off him when he was on screen.
Summerland had potential but the problem is that it can never meet them and in the end finds itself into a mess that it can’t get out of. Is it truly bad? No, but it is also not exceptional. I had a good time watching it but I also found myself bored at times. It was inconsistent and couldn’t find the right foot to stand out and that is a shame.