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My Summer of Love (A Movie Review)


Starring Nathalie Press, Emily Blunt, Paddy Considine, Dean Andrews, Michelle Byrne, Paul Antony-Barber, Lynette Edwards and Kathryn Sumner.

Screenplay by Pawel Pawlikowski in collaboration with Michael Wynne.

Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski.

Distributed by Focus Features. 87 minutes. Rated R.

To call My Summer of Love a lesbian love story would be completely missing the point, I think. Yes, it is the story of two attractive British teens who fall for each other during a long, hot, boring season in their quiet countryside town. Yes, their relationship becomes (discreetly) sexual. Yes, they melodramatically proclaim complete and undying love for each other.

But My Summer of Love is not a Sapphic romance any more than Gladiator is the story of some guys fighting cats.

This movie is a fascinating character study, really, of two very different sixteen-year-old girls who find each other through dissatisfaction for their lives and boredom. They develop a crush upon each other, perhaps. A deep friendship, definitely. An odd co-dependency, to be sure.

Mona (Nathalie Press) is a sun-freckled blonde whose life seems to be falling apart. Her parents have died, leaving her and her older brother Phil (Paddy Considine) their small depressing pub. She lives above it. Phil has recently been released from prison and found God; he has decided without checking with Mona to change the watering hole into a prayer center. Mona's married boyfriend has just dumped her in a spectacularly thoughtless fashion.

Mona has no money, no interests and no prospects (at sixteen, she has already mapped out her future unhappy existence – loveless marriage, bratty kids, followed by a deadly disease). She is so poor that she must buy a moped without the motor because she can't afford to buy it whole. However, despite all her hardships, Mona is honest and trusting to a fault; she is almost incapable of being insincere.

Tasmin (Emily Blunt), on the other hand, is more veiled, more of a mystery. A quiet, beautiful rich girl whose mother is always away "acting”, and her father is never home when he can be with his mistress. Tasmin tells Mona early on in her relationship a story about the death of her older sister due to anorexia. Tasmin should have no real worries in her life – she has money, she has beauty, she is a talented cellist – however she wallows in a poor-little-rich-girl funk. And unlike Mona, Tasmin is quite talented at telling mistruths to get what she wants.

The two become close friends, then inseparable confidants. The sexual component of their relationship, when it comes, seems natural and a bit shy. However, the sex is not what bonds the two, it is their romanticized, immature view of true love. Tasmin suggests as the summer wears down that if Mona ever left her, she would have to kill her. Mona tops her, suggesting if Tasmin ever leaves, she'd kill her and then kill herself. Despite the nearly maudlin melodrama of the statement, you don't doubt her sincerity.

Phil worries that Tasmin may be a bad influence on his sister and that she has some sneaking ulterior motives. It turns out that he is not completely wrong, but his extreme beliefs and behavior make it impossible for him to convey that to his sister.

As the title suggests, things come to a head as the leaves start to turn, when Mona finally and dramatically learns how different she is from the girl she "loves."

Do either of the girls here grow up to actually become lesbians? I seriously doubt it. In the long run as far as this atmospheric tale goes, it doesn't matter. For one long, hazy summer, they found friendship and compassion, experimented with their lifestyle and kept boredom at bay by investing themselves melodramatically, perhaps even unhealthily, in each other. (6/05)

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2005 All rights reserved. Posted: October 14, 2005.

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