out of Five
Running time: 90
With a sharp script and terrific performances from its three leads, this is easily one of the best films of the year.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s previous film was the critically acclaimed drama Last Resort (which also starred Paddy Considine), back in 2000. Since then, expectations for his follow-up feature have been sky-high and fortunately, My Summer Of Love doesn’t disappoint – it arrives here having won the Best British Film award at the Edinburgh film festival, as well as wowing them in the aisles at Toronto.
As such, it’s the best British film of the year and is, quite simply, unmissable. (Don’t worry if you miss the London Film Festival screening as it opens throughout London on Friday).
Obsessive Summer Relationship
Loosely based on the novel by Helen Cross, My Summer Of Love stars newcomers Natalie Press and Emily Blunt as Mona and Tamsin, two girls from a small Yorkshire village who strike up an obsessive friendship during a hot summer.
Mona is working class, bored and disillusioned – she lives with her brother, Phil (Paddy Considine) who has recently found God and converted the family pub into a centre for religious meetings. Tamsin, by contrast is rich, spoilt and pretentious but the two girls are fascinated with each other and their relationship grows ever more intense. This eventually begins to bother Phil, who seems intent on saving not just their souls but those of the entire village.
As Mona, Natalie Press is a real find – she’s tough and funny and yet heart-breakingly vulnerable at the same time. It’s an incredibly naturalistic performance and one that deserves a BAFTA nomination at the very least. (She also looks a little bit like a young Sissy Spacek). Emily Blunt is equally good, brilliantly conveying the intoxicating effect that Tamsin has on Mona, but also hinting at something vaguely disturbed underneath.
Paddy Considine gives another typically brilliant performance as Phil – he frequently plays characters that seem calm on the outside but give the impression that they could erupt into anger and violence at any moment and Pawlikowski exploits that tension beautifully. (In fact, the character of Phil doesn’t actually appear in the book – Pawlikowski wrote him into the story based on his experiences of making a documentary about an evangelist preacher in Yorkshire).
The cinematography of the film is beautiful and Pawlikowski makes great use of the Moors and the surrounding countryside, making it seem idyllic and almost dream-like at times. The film is also full of memorable images and shots, such as Phil leading a group of villagers up the hill with a giant cross, or the two girls riding a moped together.
There are several terrific scenes. Highlights include: Mona simulating sex with her married ex-boyfriend for Tamsin (“Do you want to be shagged by Ricky?”); the girls smashing a car window and running away; and pretty much every scene between Mona and Phil. There’s also a superb soundtrack, as well as a great last scene.
In short, My Summer Of Love is one of the best films of the year, thanks to brilliant performances and a superbly written script. It also confirms Pawlikowski as a talent to watch. Highly recommended – don’t miss it.