“Trust yourself. You’ll find your connection.”
Three teenagers hop into their RV and set out on the road headed to Summerland, a Coachella-like concert in the desert. What starts as a typical road trip quickly gets sidetracked as each of the friends finds themselves at a crossroads in their lives. Bray (Chris Ball) is coming to terms with his sexuality. He’s made a connection with Shawn (Dylan Playfair) online and the two plan to meet up at Summerland. Problem is, Shawn thinks Bray is a girl. Bray has been masquerading as Veronica using pictures of Stacey (Maddie Phillips), his friend Oliver’s (Rory J. Saper) girlfriend. When Oliver and Stacey agree to join Bray on the trip to Summerland, Bray thinks he has the perfect set-up to meet Shawn. However, Oliver and Stacey bring their own baggage. Stacey wants a deeper connection with Oliver who seems emotionally distant. Little does she know that Oliver is harboring a big secret.
Directed by Lankyboy (a pseudonym for the directing team Kurtis David Harder and Noah Kentis), Summerland is a hormone-fueled coming-of-age story with all the hallmarks of your typical road trip comedy but with an added layer of meaning. The first act is shallow and self-indulgent but as the film enters its second act we see the characters, especially Bray, start to explore what it means to be true to oneself. There are times when the viewer must suspend their disbelief as there are plenty of chance encounters that don’t seem at all realistic. However they work for the film and situations more grounded in realism would have been more tiresome. The female lead played by Maddie Phillips is being manipulated throughout both by her friend Bray and her boyfriend Oliver. I love how she finds her agency and takes charge of her journey. It’s an empowering moment in an otherwise male-driven story.
More than just your run-of-the-mill road trip movie, Summerland offers a youthful exploration of meaningful connections and self discovery.