In the opening scene of My Summer of Love, we witness a teenager, Mona (Nathalie Press), incessantly drawing on her rough-textured bedroom wall which in many ways resembles her own freckled skin (imagine a very young Sissy Spacek). Were not exactly sure whose picture it is, but its probably not of her mother who's recently died but Mona treats it rather matter-of-factly, or her brother, Phil (Paddy Considine), an ex-con who has recently gotten out of prison as a Christian evangelicalist, much to her chagrin. So, it is probably herself, a trapped soul in the reclusive and self-sufficient West Yorkshire town, which she perhaps serves up with the thick and square outer frame of the picture. Mona now lives with her brother who is in the process of turning their old pub into a plain prayer meeting spot for the locals, and hes convinced that his sister is being gripped by the devil and she needs help.
Help for Mona arrives in a different shape, though. One afternoon, as shes laying on grass by the roadside after being tired of pushing her motorless bike, she encounters a brunette beauty looking down on her. The charting of their socio-economic differences couldnt be any more persuasive here. Surrounded by timeless milieu, the scene resembles something which couldve easily taken place a couple of centuries ago with a princess and a commoner. The well-cultured and intelligent brunette, Tamsin (Emily Blunt), who is, in fact, on a white horse may not be a princess but she certainly lives like one in a sprawling mansion. They introduce themselves while realizing how much they need each other in their lives. Needless to say, it doesnt take very long for the two to become extremely close to each other. Tamsin informs Mona about her sister who has recently died while introducing her extravagant lifestyle and influences, including Nietzsche ("God is dead" she says, much to Monas delight), Freud, and French classical singer/icon dith Piaf (who, according to Tamsin, committed a few crimes of passion).
My Summer of Love is the third feature directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, someone with a strong background as a documentarian. Born in Poland, but he has spent much of his life in the U.K. so it's surprising to see that theres nothing remotely "British" about his filmmaking (although it could be said that his 2000 feature, Last Resort, had a Loachian authority to it). In My Summer of Love, Pawlikowskis eye for the naturalistic settings is keen enough to remind a viewer of what a Terrence Malick land looks like. Hes a visual storyteller, no doubt about it, so instead of relying on narrative markers he swiftly changes the mood and tone with his framing devices while abstractly concentrating on, say, running water (near Monas favorite rock), or a Jesus' cross atop a hill (a project undertaken by Phil to cement his beliefs.) On the other hand, his evocative score done by Alison Goldstepp not only features Mozart and the mournfulness of the aforementioned Piaf, but also Asha Bhonsle, blithely crooning a 70s style hippie number titled "Hare Rama Hare Krishna."
The film is a loose adaptation of Helen Crosss novel which is said to be a denser piece. My Summer of Love is "light," but its lyricism is textured, while the impressionistic narrative only deepens the more one is willing to ponder it. It could be argued that Pawlikowski fails to bring a strong third angle to his tale which couldve possibly help thrust the tension on a couple of occasions. Although, he did stage a great sequence where ones sexuality which is inherent goes up against another's beliefs which are acquired and it's no match. He has certainly gotten strong performances from the entire cast. Considines Phil is underwritten but he brings a strong emotional front; thankfully the director doesnt use him as a cop-out in anyway. Nathalie Press possesses a right amount of vulnerability and toughness for her role. But the breakout performance here comes from Emily Blunt. Her cat-like sensuality and cunningness is at once subtle and it serves its proper purpose once the role playing starts. However, Pawlikowski isnt a Neil LaBute-type, so he avoids the narcissism and doesnt try to go down the path which these kind of films usually end up taking, and ultimately makes the right decision: the power is shared.