"My Summer of Love," British writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski's drama about two teen girls in love, has a shimmering, gently faded atmosphere...
“My Summer of Love,” British writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski’s drama about two teen girls in love, has a shimmering, gently faded atmosphere reminiscent of “The Virgin Suicides” — and, as in Sofia Coppola’s film, teendom turns out to be a dangerous place. There’s something hypnotic about watching Mona (Natalie Press) and Tamsin (Emily Blunt), two 16-year-olds enduring a long, hot summer in North Yorkshire, where there is nothing to do but dream about the possibilities for a different life.
When we first meet Mona, she’s splayed out on the grass in a sunny field. You can almost feel the summer breeze on your own face and remember the crushing, anxious boredom that seems to go along with being 16. Pale and watchful, Mona is at loose ends this summer; she lives above a former pub with her brother Phil (Paddy Considine), a born-again Christian from whom she’s increasingly estranged.
Along comes Tamsin, a dark-haired beauty who’s trying on an exotic persona to see whether it fits. She invites Mona back to her ivy-covered mansion and a summer-long friendship begins, filled with drinks and cigarettes and Edith Piaf music. They fall in love, not so much with each other as with the idea of love and passion, of what they are to each other. “If you leave me, I’ll kill you,” says Tamsin, her catlike eyes even, and it’s hard to tell whether she’s bluffing.
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“My Summer of Love,” with Natalie Press, Emily Blunt, Paddy Considine. Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, from a screenplay by Pawlikowski and Michael Wynne, based on a novel by Helen Cross. 87 minutes. Rated R for sexuality, language and some drug use. Egyptian.
Like summer’s heat, this intense relationship can’t last. But “My Summer of Love” continually surprises; we’re never quite sure where it’s going. Pawlikowski, whose screenplay is very loosely based on a novel by Helen Cross, is clearly entranced by these characters, who remain unpredictable to the end. They’re works in progress, as all teenagers are, and ultimately we’re not sure how these girls will turn out — only that this summer has changed them, making them just a bit older and warier.
The film also serves as a glorious introduction to Press and Blunt, who are both making their feature-film debuts and are both splendid. Blunt, who resembles the British actress Rachel Weisz, brings delicate nuances to her role: Tamsin seems completely self-assured, but watch how she becomes diminished, almost physically smaller, when her parents enter the room.
Press, who has the pale eyes and faraway stare of a young Sissy Spacek, is explosive as Mona. Striding through the movie in a cheap pink summer top (that’s another 16-year-old trademark — you wear your favorite clothes all the time), she’s desperately looking for someone to give her happiness. For a short time, her dreary life is transformed into something lovely. She listens to Tamsin play the cello or talk about Nietzsche with rapt attention — until the idyll fades.
Near the end, as she’s learned almost more than she wanted to know this summer, she gazes into the camera with a heartbreakingly sad-eyed smile: The lips go up, but the face is set like stone.
Remember these names; remember this strange, lovely movie.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org