“My Summer of Love” is a movie with some truly lovely moments–two girls sharing a kiss in front of a fire, two girls sharing the beauty of a lush forest, two girls sharing the beauty of a flower-covered hill…you get the picture. Beyond that, it’s a mish-mash of things that work and things that don’t.
The central character in the film is Mona, played wonderfully by Natalie Press. Mona is a raw village girl, kind of a tomboy. She has a motorcycle she loves to ride, even though it has no engine (It’s still fun going downhill), and she sees a guy who mounts her some nights in the back of his car, even though he’s married with kids. Mona’s rough edges certainly weren’t smoothed any by growing up over a pub. One day, she comes home to find her older brother, Phil (the always excellent Paddy Considine), pouring out all the pub’s liquor. Phil has become Born Again, and he’s turning the pub into a center where the faithful can meet. Mona doesn’t buy it. She rides her engine-less motorcycle downhill a way, then stops to nap in a field. When she awakes, she sees a beautiful horse looking down at her. Atop said horse is its beautiful rider, a spoiled rich girl named Tamsin (Emily Blunt). The two walk down a country road, till they reach Tamsin’s family’s manor gates. She invites Mona to come by anytime.
They’re mutually intrigued, and it’s not too long before Mona walks up that long driveway to Tamsin’s huge house. The two drink wine and smoke cigarettes, and discuss their messed-up lives. After that first drunken afternoon, the pair are virtual BFF’s. After a couple meetings more, they get naked and–voila–they become lovers.
Meanwhile, as the two grow closer, Phil has moved deeper in his faith. He builds a giant Cross to set up atop a hill, to help cleanse the valley of sin. There’s one funny moment when he looks for Mona to make sure she attends the big Cross-raising. He sees her motorbike alongside the road, and walks down into the field. There’s his sister in a bathing suit, lying next to a topless Tamsin. Tamsin makes no effort to hide herself. In fact she’s almost daring Phil to look at her breasts.
That’s a recurring theme: Tamsin’s efforts to prove Phil’s Born Againedness is only superficial. In a later scene, that aim reaps some unpleasant consequences for both girls.
As the story enters the last reel, we can see that Tamsin was exaggerating her feelings for Mona. Mona is shocked initially, but gets her revenge. Phil, meantime, has abandoned his super-devout friends. We get the sense the pub will soon be a pub again, and that Phil will again be Phil, thus providing the anchor his sister has been missing.
“My Summer of Love” is one of those tragic movies where all the actors give spot-on performances, but the movie fails them. The story of the two girls’ relationship is a lot like Kate Winslett & Melanie Lynskey in “Heavenly Creatures.” The plot involving Phil and his temporary cult-like religious mania has been told a number of times. Add those together, stir in a cup of small English village cliches, simmer over very low heat, and you have the bland soup that is “My Summer of Love.”
The thing is, “My Summer of Love” is by no means terrible–the actors shine, the direction is fine, and the cinematography (as well as the English countryside) is gorgeous. It’s just sad, because “My Summer of Love” had the potential to be a really good film, to mean something, to transcend being known as more than “that movie where the girl from `The Devil Wears Prada’ gets nekkid.” The actors deserve better, as does the audience.
(Rated R, for profanity, nudity, nookie, teenaged girls smoking and drinking and doing mushrooms between swearing and having naked sex, and a little violence, when people piss-off Paddy Considine)
“My Summer of Love” is available on Netflix streaming