That I am not bowled over by “My Summer of Love” may be the result of having attended the Sundance Film Festival six years running and thus having already seen more than my share of movies about lesbians falling in love. “My Summer of Love” is better than a lot of them, with exceptionally strong performances by the two leads and a sharply wistful tone achieved by director Pawl Pawlikowski — but when you boil it down to its essential elements, it is no different from, say, “Lost and Delirious.”
It’s set in a small English village in what appears to be the late 1970s, where teenage Mona (Natalie Press) lives with her older brother Phil (Paddy Considine) above a pub, which they own. Except Phil, having just become Born Again, is dumping out the liquor and turning the place into a church, complete with a massive cross that he plans to erect on an overlooking hill.
Feeling she has lost her brother, or the very least that she no longer understands him, Mona is lonely and sad. One fateful day she meets Tamsin (Emily Blunt), home from boarding school for the summer and living in her parents’ little estate up the road. Tamsin says she’s been booted from school anyway, for being a “bad influence.” You get the feeling she’s a bad influence on most people, which means she’s a lot of fun, but which also means she could snap at any moment.
The girls become BFF and spend all their time together, the lazy days and cool summer nights eventually leading to a playful kiss, then a tentative one, and then KA-ZOWEE! They’re lovers. They are completely smitten with one another, in that immature, end-of-the-world way that adolescents have of being in love.
In one telling scene, very smartly directed by Pawlikowski, Mona and Tamsin are in silhouette, facing each other and whispering. Tamsin is intensely serious, saying, “If you leave me I’ll kill you.” Mona repeats it, but she has a little smile about her. For one of these girls, love is fun. For the other one, it’s deadly serious.
These young actresses perform with extraordinary conviction, and Paddy Considine is also very good as Phil, his story of self-discovery nicely paralleling the girls’. But I found the movie’s surprises not at all surprising, nor its conclusion anything beyond what I expected. It is, in short, a very good coming-of-age story of love and obsession, but not a remarkable one.
B- (1 hr., 26 min.; )