Jessica Swale: We have to encourage people back into cinemas

Director and playwright Jessica Swale has said it is a “privilege” to release one of the first new films since cinemas reopened and encouraged people who are visiting pubs to also return to the big screen.

Swale, who won an Olivier Award for her play Nell Gwynn, makes her film directorial debut with Summerland, which reunited her with the show’s star Gemma Arterton.

The film, about a solitary writer who takes in an evacuee during the Blitz, is among the first new releases since cinemas reopened their doors, alongside Unhinged starring Russell Crowe and Proxima starring Eva Green.

Swale told the PA news agency: “I feel like it’s actually a real privilege to be part of the very first moment of films coming back.

“Because I know lots of films are waiting in the wings to make sure that there is going to be a big enough audience for them but I’m really actually proud of the producers here who were brave enough to say ‘There might not be a lot of people but someone has got to go first’ and we have got to reopen the doors and try and save some of those independent cinemas that frankly are really under threat.

“We have to get in, we have to get back and we have to encourage people to come back and this film is so much about believing in the possibility of things improving and in hope and redemption and the importance of imagination and being open minded and I feel like that is so resonant with this moment.

“Of course lots of people still need to shield, of course for a lot of people it isn’t safe, but if you’re going to go to the pub and hang out with a bunch of other people, then going to the cinema should be something that should absolutely be back on our radar too and the arts are so essential in giving people joy and some escapism and making us remember the important things in life so I’m really proud to be part of this moment.”

Discussing what appealed to her about Swale’s script, Arterton said: “I procured the script somehow, I can’t even remember how, and I read it on my sofa and I just cried.

“I never cry reading a script. It’s very rare, but it was the world, it was so clear.

“Jess had written these beautiful characters that were so detailed and realised, it just sprang out at me. But it was also the magic realism in the story. I’m always drawn to anything that explores the other and I particularly love magic realism because it’s rooted in realty.

“It just transported me and it just takes you to another level so that was what I loved about it. It was just beautiful storytelling and very, very original.

“I think these days when everything, well not everything, but a lot of stuff, is remakes and prequels and sequels and all that, it’s just really special to get something that is really original.”

Summerland is out now in UK cinemas.