MY SUMMER OF LOVE
UK 2004 : Pawel PAWLIKOWSKI : 86 mins
There’s much to like in this small-scale tale of teenage lesbian romance, unfolding over the course of one hot, hazy summer in an unspecified (west?) Yorkshire valley. The performances by Emily Press – as working-class Lisa, aka “Mona” – and Nathalie Blunt – as the posher, more affluent Tamsin – are sensitive and accurate, while Paddy Considine makes his usual strong impression as Lisa’s born-again-Christian brother Phil. Ryszard Lenczewski’s cinematography is suitably dreamy, backed up by evocative music from Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory. All in all a promising package, full of talented contributions, and one that’s clearly pleased both critics and audiences – it won the prestigious Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature at the Edinburgh Film Festival, confirming Pawlikowski’s position in the front rank of this country’s directors after his (superior) Last Resort from 2001.
But I just didn’t buy it. There’s very little in My Summer of Love that doesn’t seem slightly but distractingly false. Before seeing the film I’d been aware that it was based on a novel – and as the story took shape I got the distinct impression that the source material had been written decades ago. It turns out that Helen Cross’s book was published as recently as 2001, but is set during the mid-80s Miners’ Strike. This perhaps explains the lack of mobile phones or references to the internet in a screenplay (co-written with Michael Wynne) about teenage girls. Cross’s novel is apparently very different from this film (which is as it should be) – Pawlikowski jettisoned a serial-killer subplot, and the character of Phil is entirely their invention.
But while Phil’s evangelical actions might have fit in with the original 1980s timeframe, they sit awkwardly in a 2003 setting: this area of Yorkshire would almost certainly be much more multicultural than the all-white enclave of Pawlikowski’s film, and given current socio-political considerations the erection of a huge, seemingly permanent cross on a hillside would be at best ignorant, at worst crassly provocative. And what are we to make of Phil’s stated intention to “claim this valley back.” From what? From whom?
12th October, 2004
click here for original Edinburgh Film Festival review
by Neil Young