Summerland review – smart coming-out and coming-of-age comedy

Three Gen Z friends head to a desert music festival and romantic hijinks ensue in this breezy roadtrip charmer

Not to be confused with the British period drama of the same name starring Gemma Arterton and Gugu Mbatha-Raw that came out a few weeks back, this Summerland is an American-made coming-out and coming-of-age comedy, low budget but impressively high in concept. The setup posits three Gen Z young adults – straight couple Stacey (Maddie Phillips) and Oliver (Rory J Saper) with Oliver’s best friend, newly out gay man Bray (Chris Ball, also the film’s co-writer) on a roadtrip from Washington state to California to attend a desert-set music festival called Summerland, which looks like a cross between Burning Man and Coachella. The interesting queer twist is that Bray has been catfishing a hunky Christian guy named Shawn (Dylan Playfair) by pretending to be Stacey, convinced that if he could only lure Shawn into meeting him in the flesh he could coax out Shawn’s true sexuality, as yet unrecognised even by Shawn. Meanwhile, Stacey and Oliver are having their own issues around commitment and honesty.

The easy, breezy script by Ball, Dylan Griffiths, and co-directors Kurtis David Harder and Noah Kentis (who collectively go by the name Lankyboy) manages to make a few smart, salient points about the fluidity of sexuality for this generation without ever feeling preachy. There is always room for gags about getting mashed on psychedelic mushrooms and the ritual complaints about uptight step-parents who just don’t get it when you borrow their swanky RV for a 1,000-mile journey. All three leads are toothsome but also credible characters with some degree of interiority. There are quite a lot of weird loose ends and a slightly deflationary denouement, but all is forgivable for its earnest sweetness of purpose.

• Summerland is available on digital platforms from 14 September.

Contributor

Leslie Felperin

The GuardianTramp

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