Movie Reviews by Jonathan Harvey and Neils Hesse
Starring: Natalie Press, Emily Blunt, Paddy Considine, Dean Andrews
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Review by Jonathan Harvey
Adapted loosely from a novel by Helen Cross, this charming little film about two teenage girls and their hazy summer romance provides a breath of fresh air both for audiences and for the British movie industry.
It tells the story of Mona (Nathalie Press), an orphaned, frustrated teen living above a pub in a sleepy Yorkshire village with her brother Phil (Paddy Considine), a reformed criminal and born-again Christian who wants to reclaim the valley from evil and who starts by pouring away all the pub’s booze and turning it into a prayer centre. Mona’s loneliness and boredom are relieved when she meets the posh and enigmatic Tamsin (played by Emily Blunt), a boarding school girl back for the holidays. Despite class differences the girls form a close friendship which soon blossoms into love in the face of personal troubles – Tamsin explains that her dad is having an affair and later tells that her sister Sadie died from anorexia. But Mona (a nickname from Phil in his wittier days, her real name being Lisa) soon becomes worried when Tamsin’s intrigue at Phil’s beliefs turns into a ploy to play with his emotions.
As the two young leads, Nathalie Press and Emily Blunt form an engaging and convincing pair. Both surely have promising careers ahead of them and they admirably fill the boots of two characters who, although based on rather stereotypical notions of class, are well-drawn by screenwriter Michael Wynne. But despite getting relatively little screen time, it’s Paddy Considine who steals the show with his turn as Phil, a man whose latent anger is never completely absorbed by his new faith. It’s a joy to watch such a neat, self-contained story as this, and Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski brings it to life wonderfully with some beautiful visuals which conjure a rare sense of exoticism in the landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales. As well as lingering shots on the countryside Pawlikowski likes to pepper the film with symbolic flourishes, for instance capturing the fervour of the Christian followers by repeatedly focusing on their outstretched, pleading hands. He shows a great stylistic touch which services the tale of the girls’ romance without distracting from it.
MY SUMMER OF LOVE is a delightful English drama, its enjoyable story played out with good chemistry between the two leads. For anyone who’s looking for an alternative to the mainstream gloss of ‘Alfie’, this would be 90 minutes well spent.
Review by Neils Hesse
Mona (Natalie Press), a young teenage girl who is desperately in need of someone to listen to her and just be there for her, gets dumped by her married boyfriend who just wanted to use her sexually anyway. She also does not understand how her initially cool brother Phil (Paddy Considine), who has just come back from prison, is now a born again Christian and has changed so much that she can no longer stand him. On one sunny day in what starts out as a miserable summer for her she meets a very pretty and visibly wealthy girl Tamsin (Emily Blunt) riding a horse. She has a short conversation with her and is invited to visit her at her lavish house anytime she wants to. The very next day she decides to visit the girl and they get to know each other as they talk about their individual problems and fantasies. As they get closer and start to spend nights together they become more than just friends as their relationship becomes very intimate and they make a pact to love each other forever. An encounter between Tamsin and her lover’s Christian brother Phil, reveals him to be the same rough chap that he has always been and, this causes him to lock up his sister Mona and forbid her from seeing the girl as she insists that she is going to run away with her. After a while Phil relents and lets Mona leave, but she now finds out that not all that her sweet lover told her was actually how it really is.
Pawel Pawlikowski drives very real performances from his actors in this film and this is what makes the story worth watching. The manner in which the girls apparently bond so deeply in many ways is an intriguing insight into the mind of the insecure female teenager of today.
Natalie Press is very good as the easily manipulated girl who is just seeking acceptance and attention, whereas Emily Blunt is equally convincing as the apparently vulnerable yet extremely manipulative girl with hidden motives. Paddy Considine does his character justice as he portrays initially the strong Christian man who after just one single moment of temptation switches so viciously back to his true being.
All in all this is a simple, interesting enough story that is uplifted by some truly remarkable performances – it should work for a female audience.