Closing Night Gala
Gemma Arterton stars in acclaimed theatre director Jessica Swale’s moving Second World War drama, as a woman rediscovering her ability to love.
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Dir-Scr Jessica Swale
Prod Guy Heeley, Adrian Sturges
With Gemma Arterton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Lucas Bond, Dixie Egerickx, Sîan Phillips
UK Distribution Lionsgate
Secluded in her picturesque countryside cottage, Alice toils away at her academic thesis on pagan myths while the rest of the world is in turmoil. The Second World War rages, yet its impact is barely felt by the solitary and prickly writer. Unmarried, she attracts the consternation of local villagers and is tormented by their children. Nursing a heartache from her past, Alice would quite like the world to leave her alone, but it has very different plans for her – in the form of Frank, an evacuee from London. Initially determined to be rid of this interloper, the guilelessness of youth soon breaks though Alice’s tough exterior. The boy opens old wounds with innocent questions about Alice’s past. Through flashbacks, we see the reason for her pain – an all-consuming love affair with the decadent Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), which unfolded when both women were barely out of their teens and everything seemed possible. Swale’s rapturous feature debut is a heartfelt rumination on the power of love, set against a beautifully-shot Kent coastline. Arterton has rarely been better as the fiercely independent Alice, coming to terms with her past and finally setting herself free for a future she could only dream about.