Review: My Summer of Love
By Kim Hollis
October 10, 2005
I absolutely love when I can go into a movie with absolutely no pre-conceived notions or ideas. As a writer for a movie site, I'm rarely able to do this; especially given the fact that part of my daily work involves keeping the release schedule updated with information about the upcoming releases. Thankfully, while I knew the essential storyline for My Summer of Love, I had no idea what to expect from it. The experience of watching the film, as a result, was an extremely rewarding one.
That aforementioned storyline is almost deceptive in its simplicity. The tale centers on a young woman named Mona (Nathalie Press), a free-spirited Yorkshire tomboy who spends her days roaming the lush countryside and wishing that her brother (Paddy Considine), an ex-convict who has found religion, would go back to the way that he used to be. While she lives with him in a former pub that he has converted to a church of sorts, she has no desire to experience life in that way. She smokes, rides around on her newly purchased motorbike, and even has brief sexual interludes with a man who really doesn't treat her particularly well.
One day, though, Mona encounters a mysterious young lady named Tamsin (Emily Blunt). Tamsin's family lives on a luxurious estate in the town, and she is the beneficiary of a pampered, rich existence. The two girls connect when they discuss some of the tragedies that have befallen their families, and they quickly become fast friends - and then much more. While one might expect a gentle character study to ensue, My Summer of Love turns out to be anything but. In fact, it is quite deceptive in its wolf-in-sheep's clothing nature. The lush scenery and beautiful cast members might lead one to believe that a soft romance or comedy is forthcoming, but the story instead devolves into being a dark almost-thriller. The languorous pace belies the chaotic emotions that are clashing under the surface.
Despite the fact that the film unfolds deliberately slowly, it is consistently watchable and engaging. That's probably because the performances in the film are among the best of the year. Nathalie Press is in turns both rough and tumble and highly vulnerable. She's imbued with sarcasm and a deep-set anger, yet there's still a softness and femininity to her that offsets those qualities. As for the always-terrific Paddy Considine, his Phil has a lurking darkness that is evident despite his apparent embrace of Christianity. His role in the film is fairly limited, but when Considine is onscreen, he is remarkable.
The real treasure of the film, though, is Emily Blunt as Tamsin. A luminous and striking young woman, she is an effervescent screen presence. She does a marvelous job of conveying a sort of helplessness inherent in a girl who is accustomed to having everything handed to her. And yet her character is harsh in many ways, making her motives and actions consistently suspect. When the film's climax occurs, one can see that Tamsin has always remained true to herself, even if some of the things that finally happen are surprising.
Ultimately, My Summer of Love is a highly intelligent examination of how class, religion and unique upbringings can impact interpersonal relationships. It quietly and insidiously shows the darkness that can exist in people of both impeccable upbringing and rougher backgrounds. Most of all, it's a deceptive piece of filmmaking that looks soft on its surface, but is biting and harsh underneath - much like real life.