REVIEW: Summerland (2020) is a “A Queer Comedy with Humor and Heart”

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“A fun watch with a quintessential summer feel”

Directing duo Kurtis David Harder and Noah Kentis, known together as Lankyboy, have always dreamed of making a coming of age road trip film. Their dreams came true with the release of their feature debut Summerland (2020), a queer comedy with equal parts humor and heart. With an upbeat soundtrack, desert scenes, and a Coachella-esque music festival, the film has all the ingredients to make a fun movie that’s perfect for this time of year.

Bray (Chris Ball) and his best friend Oliver (Rory J. Saper) have the ultimate summer road trip planned. They’re going to go to Summerland, a music festival in the desert, where Bray plans to meet up with Shawn (Dylan Playfair), a guy he met on a Christian dating website while posing as a woman using pictures of Stacey (Maddie Phillips), Oliver’s girlfriend. The long weekend trip is a last hurrah, since Oliver has to go back to England when his visa expires in a few weeks. His girlfriend Stacey tags along, throwing a wrench into Brey’s plan. He thinks Shawn could be understanding, but it was already a messy situation before Stacey arrived. On the way to the festival, tensions rise between the three friends that put their carefree trip into jeopardy. 

A man in a red coat attempts to hitch a ride from a yellow campervan.
Courtesy of SuperChill

Like all great road trip movies, Summerland is about the journey not the destination. Bray, Oliver, and Stacey each have their own problems to reckon with throughout the RV ride. Oliver and Stacey have to figure out the future of their relationship with Oliver moving halfway around the world, a fact that he failed to tell Stacey before the long drive. Meanwhile, Bray must face the reality of the situation he’s created by posing as a woman on a dating site even though he doesn’t identify as a woman. Both situations come to a head at the music festival itself, leaving the three to pick up the pieces of themselves and their friendships.  

Summerland is a fun watch with a quintessential summer feel. Even with a queer main character, though, the film doesn’t have the level of character development you’d expect from the setup. The comedy of mistaken identity is frustrating to watch and feels unrealistic, making Bray (the only out queer character) feel, at times, more like a queer character used as a plot device rather than a fully fleshed out character. Though it leaves more to be desired, the Summerland remains a mostly upbeat, enjoyable summertime watch. 

Dir.: Kurtis David Harder & Noah Kentis

Prod.: Kurtis David Harder, Chris Ball, Brandon Christensen, KC Macpherson, Noah Kentis

Cast: Maddie Phillips, Rory J. Saper, Chris Ball

Release Date: September 14, 2020

Available on: iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, and Amazon