My Summer of Love

© 2005 Ray Wong

Stars: Nathalie Press, Emily Blunt, Paddy Considine, Dean Andrews, Michelle Byrne
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Writers: Pawel Pawlikowski, Michael Wynne (based on novel by Helen Cross)
Distributor: Focus
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual theme, nudity, drug and alcohol
Running time: 86 minutes

Script – 6
Performance – 8
Direction – 5
Cinematography – 7
Music/Sound– 6
Editing – 7
Production – 7

Total Score – 6.5 out of 10

Based on Helen Cross’s 2001 novel, MY SUMMER OF LOVE is a coming-of-age tale that touches on religion, spirituality, drugs, family, class difference, deceits, and sexuality.

Mona (Press) is an impressionable teenage girl spending a summer idling in the streets of Yorkshire. Her mother just died of cancer, and her brother, Phil (Considine), got out of prison, and becomes a born-again Christian. Meanwhile, Mona is dumped by her married-guy boyfriend Ricky (Andrews). Bored out of her wits, she meets free-spirited Tamsin (Blunt), who is spending the summer away from boarding school at her father’s mansion.

Connected by their personal woes and tragedies, Mona and Tamsin become very close – and eventual lovers. They ridicule Tamsin’s philandering father and the God-obsessed Phil, and they mourn for Mona’s mother and Tamsin’s older sister who died of anorexia. When Phil finds out about the relationship between Mona and Tamsin, he goes berserk and Mona leaves home, only the find the truth about Tamsin…

Press (MERCY) looks a little too old for the role of the naïve Mona, but she’s a good enough actress to convey the teenage angst and confusion. Her tomboyish charm is also affecting. Blunt (BOUDICA) exudes so much sensuality and raw beauty that you get to suspect what’s underneath her gorgeous outer shell. The two actresses look and feel good together, and their intimate scenes are very convincing. And Considine (CINDERELLA MAN) is intense and moody as Mona’s brother Phil. He plays the man tormented by his own demons very well.

Like the novel, write-director Powlikowski’s (LAST RESORT) script deals with a cornucopia of issues. Central to the theme is self-identity and companionship: We tend to believe what others tell us, and go along with the ride, so that we’re not alone. Of course, lesbianism and sensuality are also central to the story, a juxtaposition to the religious fanaticism represented by Phil’s character. More subtle is the class differences, but if you look closely, you can see it. Mona represents the lower-middle class – she simply doesn’t have that many options; meanwhile, Tamsin does whatever and whenever she wants because she belongs to the upper-middle class. As the two girls are drawn to each other, you can see how they try to fit themselves with each other, whether it’s through exchanging clothes or taking a scooter ride or taking drugs. And the ending further displays that class difference.

At 86 minutes, the film feels long. Except for the twist at the end, the plot is rather straightforward and uncomplicated. Powlikowski adopts a slow pace in telling the story about these two young women. There are lot of lingering shots, silence, and symbolic camera works. The dialogue is generally revealing, especially between Mona and Tamsin. Their relationship unfolds at a slow but steady pace. There are a few spontaneous scenes that put a smile on my face. Powlikowski depends on the actors to convey exquisite emotions through their expressive faces and gestures. There are some breathtaking scenes, but in general, the cinematography matches the bleakness of the rundown British town. The languid pace reminds us of a long, lush, humid summer, and that’s a good thing if you can stand the heat.

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