My Summer of Love (2004)
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Mona, the working class girl, is so sexy and yet so vulnerable. She has no idea she's a beauty, or that she's stronger and more creative than the people around her. She thinks that being sophisticated means smoking and drinking and acting bored all the time. So when she meets Tamsin she is instantly captivated!
Tamsin is spoiled and rich, used to being adored. When the rough, but very sexy young working girl looks up at her with innocent admiration, cruel and shallow Tamsin thinks it might be amusing just to get her going for a bit. But pleasure soon leads to passion, out of control.
Both girls in this movie are superb, wonderful actresses. Mona could seem dim, but we get how smart she could be if she just woke up to the phony side of Tamsin. Tamsin could seem evil, but we get how lies and make believe are the only way she can get attention.
It's a lovely film, with only a couple of tiny flaws. I thought it was too easy for Mona's "boyfriend" to be just a selfish, fat lout. It's the kind of thing you always see in lesbian films, like the girl needs an "excuse" to find love with another woman. Why need an excuse? Also, I would have liked just a bit more on Tamsin's family -- do they know what she really is? Do they care? Just a hint or something at the end.
My theory about why American audiences didn't like this movie is about culture, but not just that Americans are dumb. Americans, when they watch "British" movies, expect to see dukes and duchesses, aristocrats, Jane Austen elegance. Just a couple of teens smoking and drinking doesn't look "British" to us.
You can't say Americans don't "like" British movies, but if you look at GOSFORD PARK and compare it to MY SUMMER OF LOVE you can see what I mean. I hated GOSFORD PARK, thought it was paper thin and sentimental, but it gave Americans the England they want -- aristocrats, servants, luxury, scandal.
See what I mean?
Press plays Mona, bored to tears with life in provincial Yorkshire, and especially bored with her brother Phil (Paddy Considine) who is a reformed violent criminal and born-again Christian now righteously pouring away the stocks of booze in the pub owned by their late parents, and re-purposing this place of sin as a prayer center. Then she meets Tamsin (Emily Blunt), a kindred spirit despite being outrageously posh, who's rusticated from her private girls' school, and whose neglectful parents let her have the run of their magnificent Tudor family home. Mona explains that her name is actually Lisa, but her habit of complaining got her the nickname "Moaner" Lisa, from her brother, back in the days when he had a sense of humor. Tamsin's enigmatic response is simply to drawl: "I've studied the original." But as I said you do not have to be Lesbian to enjoy this wonderful film. Many people go through life asking themselves who they are? Where do they live and what do they believe in.
Now he had made 'My Summer of Love', a nicely observed tale of a teenage lesbian romance. As in 'Last Resort', Russian-born Pavlikovski paints an enticingly skewed picture of Britain that rings true in spite of its aberrence; and gets good performances out of his cast, especially Paddy Considine as the brother of one of the girls, who could certainly have used more screen-time, though his co-stars Nathalie Press and Emily Blunt are also good. The film steers clear of cliché, and has some dryly funny dialogue, but what it lacks is a sense of time as a continuum: it feels like a semi-random sampling of its characters' lives, and although there is a clear plot it's hidden in the background, apparent only later. In some ways, this is also true to life, but it also means that the film remains low-key right up to the moment of its suddenly dramatic conclusion. Pavlikovski also seems surprisingly keen on static location shots (before we see the characters inside of a house, we always see the house from outside),
which jars slightly given the film's general artistic merits. Distinctive, and well-worth watching, 'My Summer of Love' isn't quite a great film; but it is an interesting effort from a director committed to representing life in the ways that Hollywood never does.
Paul Pavlikowsky's take on the Helen Cross' novel makes for an interesting film that on the surface seems to be an idyllic love between two teen age girls, when in reality no one seems to see the cruelty that Tamsin exerts in the more naive Mona. Tamsin lies about a sister without no shame; that same sister appears at the last moment in the film to ask Mona to return what she perceives as a stolen blouse, humiliating Mona even more. After all, Tamsin is going back to yet another school for rich girls while Mona has to stay in the small village with a broken heart that will not heal. Tamsin, in retrospect is a cool and calculating young woman who has no scruples or much less feels remorse for leading Mona to believe they will stay together forever.
The third main character of the story is the enigmatic Phil, Mona's brother. He does a complete change by joining an evangelical sect and he has left the pub go out of business. Phil is another troubled soul that has no problem at the end renouncing his ties to the religious group that has taken over his pub, and his life. While Phil seems to care for his sister Mona, he is a distant man, in spite of his newly found religiosity. Where he should have been kind and loving, he grows distant and into himself.
The three main characters in "My Summer of Love" are well drawn. Natalie Press gives a fine account of Mona, the more naive of the two girls. She is an unsophisticated girl who has no social graces and is completely dazzled by the more savvy Tamsin. Emily Blunt, a beautiful young actress is perfect as Tamsin, a manipulator, who will have Mona believe that she truly cares for her, when in reality, she is only amusing herself while confined to the summer house in the country. Paddy Considine does a good job as the sullen Phil, the man who finds religion and then abandons it.
The film, under the fine direction of Mr. Pavlikowsky needs the viewer's attention to see the nuances under the story unfolding in front us.