Good road trip movies are never about the destination but the journey. The latest entry into the genre, Summerland, is no exception. Brimming with charm and honesty, this buddy pic follows Bray (Chris Ball), Oliver (Rory J. Saper), Oliver’s girlfriend, Stacey (Maddie Phillips), on a journey to a music festival. Along the way, the three take their own personal sojourn, ultimately leading to a truly satisfying ride. Directed by Lankyboy, and written by Ball, the film stays away from clichés, instead, laser focusing on the moments that build us into the people we become.
Bray is a young gay man who is catfishing his latest crush, Shawn (Dylan Playfair), prior to the big music festival Summerland. Posing as a girl, and using his best friend’s girlfriend’s pics, Bray convinces Shawn that he will meet him at the festival. Meanwhile, Oliver has to find a way to explain to his girlfriend Stacey that his Visa is up, and he will be leaving the country in two weeks. Then there is Stacey, oblivious to Bray using her image to meet a straight guy, who is rebelling against her mother and stepdad by taking the family RV on a cross country trip.
“…the three share a communal revelation before getting back on the road to their destination.”
At first, the three hit a camping spot that Stacey used to visit as a kid. This is the first sign that Ball and co-writers Dylan Griffiths, Kurtis David Harder, and Noah Kentis prefer to relish in the trip, and we are here for it. A briefcase of drugs gets thrown in, and the three share a communal revelation before getting back on the road to their destination. This starts a series of beautifully written scenes in which the characters discover just as much about who they are as they do of the people around them. Oliver continues to avoid the subject of the future, Stacey comes into her own as a young woman, and Bray continues to catfish his straight crush. Then the s*** hits the fan.
Summerland is a poignant story without the artifice. It is silly, absurd, and oddly touching. Through Lankyboy’s assured direction, the movie pops with palpable energy and never talks down to its subjects. It reminds us of who we were at that pivotal moment when everything was in focus, but nothing was clear. Any one of the performances could have fallen into hyperbole or parody. Yet for their credit, the three leads portray humans coming into their own despite the comical and surreal circumstances that include cliff diving, stealing the family RV, and trashing a Vegas suite.
Jump in the RV, pop a few shrooms, and head out on the road with Summertime. This is easily one of the best movies of 2020. It reminds us that as much as we know, we know nothing. It reminds us to be ourselves. It reminds us that true friendship grow with us, and us with them warts and all. Head to Summerland. You won’t be disappointed.
"…one of the best movies of 2020."