out of Five
Running time: 93
Engaging and enjoyable British period drama enlivened by a strong script, stunning locations, some impressive production design work and a trio of great performances from Emily Browning, Dan Stevens, and Dominic Cooper.
What's it all about?
Directed by TV veteran Christopher Menaul and adapted by Jonathan Smith from his own novel (itself based on true events), Summer in February is set in 1911, in the Newlyn School artistic community based in picturesque Lamorna, on the coast of Cornwall. Emily Browning plays Florence, an aspiring painter who comes to Lamorna to live with her brother Joey (Max Deacon) and finds herself torn between two men:
reserved, kind-hearted land agent Gilbert (Dan Stevens) and tempestuous, womanising painter AJ Munnings (Dominic Cooper). However, after she impulsively accepts a proposal, she begins to realise that she's made a terrible mistake.
Summer in February is something of a must-see for Downton Abbey fans mourning the loss of Matthew Crawley, not least because Dan Stevens (who also co-produced the film) plays almost exactly the same character (kind-hearted, reserved, suffers in silence etc); needless to say, he does an excellent job. Browning is equally good as Florence, sparking intriguing and markedly different chemistry with both her co-stars, and her dawning realisation that she's made the wrong decision is heart-breaking to watch. Similarly, Dominic Cooper (who's in severe danger of playing one cad too many) is excellent as Munnings, revealing unsuspected depths of emotion beneath his hard-drinking, rogueish exterior.
In addition, there's strong work from a colourful supporting cast that includes Shaun Dingwall (as Harold Knight), Hattie Morahan (as acclaimed artist Laura Knight) and Mia Austen as Dolly, a local nude model who's happy to pose naked for anyone that asks.
Menaul creates a strong sense of time and place, aided by some stunning coastal locations and some impressive production design, to the point where you end up wishing you could spend more time with Lamorna's inhabitants (particularly Morahan's Hattie, who's frustratingly underwritten and yet still emerges as the film's most intriguing character). On top of that, Smith's script does a superb job with the central love triangle, not least because it pulls off a couple of unexpected reversals; people get hurt, but not necessarily in the way you might be expecting.
Summer in February is an entertaining and powerfully emotional British period drama with a strong script and superb performances from its three leads. Recommended.
Summer In February (12A)