My Summer of Love
|My Summer of Love|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Pawel Pawlikowski|
My Summer of Love|
by Helen Cross
|Edited by||David Charap|
Focus Features (U.S.)
|Box office||£5 million|
My Summer of Love is a 2004 British drama film directed by Pawel Pawlikowski and co-written by Pawlikowski and Michael Wynne. Based on the novel of the same name by Helen Cross, the film explores the lesbian relationship between two young women from different classes and backgrounds. Working class Mona (Natalie Press), whose once-hotheaded brother Phil (Paddy Considine) became a born-again Christian in prison, meets upper middle class Tamsin (Emily Blunt, in her theatrical film debut) who suffers from a lack of love in her family. Filmed in West Yorkshire, the film went on to win a BAFTA.
On a sunny summer day in Yorkshire Tamsin meets Mona. The former travels on horseback and chances upon Mona, who is resting in the grass. The two girls come from completely opposing background; Tamsin is from an upper-middle-class family and has recently been suspended from boarding school for being a bad influence; drinking alcohol. Mona, on the other hand, comes from a dysfunctional family, and her brother, Phil, who has recently been released from prison, is the only remaining member of her family. Both of the girls seem to regard their lives as mundane. The new acquaintances head home together, one on horseback and the other on an engineless scooter.
When Mona arrives home, she finds her brother in their mother's former pub, pouring all of the alcohol into the sink. He has undergone an extreme religious transformation during his stint in prison and regards his activity as part of his preparation for a rally for born-again Christian converts, much to Mona's annoyance. That night, Mona meets her lover, Ricky. They have sex in his car, after which he breaks up with her. Mona angrily turns down Ricky's offer to drive her home. The next day, Mona arrives at Tamsin's in order to escape from the rally organised by her brother. The girls begin to bond as they spend the day drinking and smoking while talking about the problems they face in their lives. Their sharing brings to light several of Tamsin's family secrets, such as the fact that Tamsin's sister, Sadie, died as a result of anorexia nervosa.
The next day, Tamsin takes Mona to the place where Tamsin claims that her father is cheating on her mother with his secretary. Not only is Tamsin furious because she states that the secretary is blonde with big breasts, but also because the secretary is not very smart. Mona smashes a window of Tamsin's father's car. The girls then flee the scene, after which Mona agrees to spend the night in Tamsin's house.
The next day, Tamsin purchases an engine for Mona's scooter, after which they drive to a small river to swim. While swimming under a waterfall, the girls share a kiss. The two return to Tamsin's house and Tamsin encourages Mona to try some of her old dresses. When Mona tries on a long red dress, Tamsin states that it used to belong to her sister, and tearfully recounts the process of watching Sadie die. She also tells Mona that she is beautiful in the dress. Later on, the two are in the back garden, with Tamsin playing Camille Saint-Saëns's cello solo Le Cygne from Le Carnaval des Animaux and Mona dancing The Dying Swan to it. Mona falls to the ground at the end of the piece, and Tamsin kisses her passionately. Later that night, the two girls have sex in Tamsin's bed, but are briefly interrupted by Phil, who has come to Tamsin's house to look for Mona.
The next day, Phil finds the girls sunbathing, with Tamsin topless. She does not cover herself and merely gazes at him as he invites the girls to his rally, in which he wants to erect a large cross on the hill next to their village. Although Mona is reluctant to go, Tamsin encourages her, and the two join the born-again Christians on their way up the hill. Tamsin behaves as if immediately attracted to Phil during the course of the rally. Later on, Mona and Tamsin explore Sadie's room and find a bag of magic mushrooms hidden inside a dollhouse. They take the psychedelic compounds together. Later that day, feeling the effects of the mushrooms, Mona and Tamsin go to a dancehall where they behave intimately, disturbing the mostly older patrons and prompting the bouncer to kick them out. They then go back to the river where they first kissed and declare their eternal love to each other, solemnly swearing that they would kill each other if one should leave the other, with Mona adding that she would kill herself.
In the morning, Tamsin wakes by the river cold and shivering, and the girls leave to breakfast at Tamsin's house. Phil then arrives at Tamsin's house searching for Mona, whereupon Tamsin pretends to seduce him. He reacts and attempts to kiss her, but she laughs him off insultingly, sparking his fury and violence, as he grabs Tamsin by the neck in a fit of anger. He proceeds to lock Mona in her room, forbidding her to see Tamsin, where Mona draws a picture of Tamsin on the wall. Mona fakes suicide and Phil comes in to rescue her, whereupon Mona mocks Phil's belief in the devil and he hits her across the face. Something in Phil snaps and he reverts to his violent behavior, kicking the born-again Christians out of the former pub, while Mona leaves the pub determined to start a new life with Tamsin.
Mona arrives at Tamsin's house and discovers that Tamsin is to return to boarding school. Mona also belatedly uncovers Tamsin's deception; Tasmin's parents were never separated for they were only on holliday out of the country, and Tamsin was never expelled from school for she was only on summer vacation. Also, Tamsin's older sister, Sadie, is in fact alive, and did not die of an eating disorder. Everything that Tamsin has said were lies fed to Mona as part of Tamsin's idea of summer fun. Mona, feeling disgusted and dejected by the fact that she's been used as summer theatrics, leaves for the girls' special spot at the river.
Tamsin finds her there and tells Mona that it should have been clear from the start that their relationship was doomed. In explaining why she lied about Sadie's "death" and about her father's infidelity, Tamsin tells Mona, "I'm a fantasist, for God's sake." Seemingly forgiving her, Mona slips into the water fully clothed, enticing Tamsin to join her, and the two kiss, re-enacting the earlier kissing scene. As they are kissing, Mona suddenly grabs Tamsin by the throat and pushes her under the water, as if about to fulfil her earlier oath to kill her. Instead she releases her and climbs out of the water. Despite Tamsin's angry shouts and insults, Mona confidently walks away.
- Natalie Press as Mona
- Emily Blunt as Tamsin
- Paddy Considine as Phil
- Dean Andrews as Ricky
- Michelle Byrne as Ricky's wife
- Paul-Anthony Barber as Tamsin's father
- Lynette Edwards as Tamsin's mother
- Kathryn Sumner as Sadie
Casting the two lead actresses for the film proved difficult for Pawlikowski, and the overall casting procedure took about eight months. Pawlikowski searched in schools, universities, theatre groups and public castings. He discovered Nathalie Press first, but he still had to find her counterpart and so held some workshops together with Press and Considine. During this process, he finally found Emily Blunt, and felt her to be the ideal Tamsin. The chemistry between Press and Blunt was perfect right from the start and they first did a tryout with the "Pavlova-dancing scene", which worked out perfectly. Emily Blunt is a competent cellist, and is listed in the credits as the performer of "The Swan" by Camille Saint-Saëns. Pawlikowski already knew Paddy Considine from their earlier collaboration Last Resort and cast him as Phil.
The film was shot during the span of five weeks after some intensive location-scouting by Pawlikowski. The script only contained 35 pages and was far from being complete. The whole script was a kind of work in progress: a lot of scenes and dialogue were improvised while shooting, with a lot of participation by the actors. The scene in which Mona draws a portrait of Tamsin on the wall of her room was entirely improvised—during Pawlikowski's travelling together with Press, he discovered that she used to do a lot of drawing while she was thinking, so he decided to integrate it into the movie and made a scene out of it. The whole shoot was done on location in Todmorden during the hottest summer Yorkshire had seen in 50 years.
The performances of the leading actors have been acclaimed, with awards from the Evening Standard British Film Awards and the London Critics Circle Film Awards. Additionally, Pawlikowski's unconventional style of directing has been rewarded with a BAFTA for Best British Film and the Michael Powell award for Best British Film at the Edinburgh Film Festival (where the film had its world premiere in 2004), along with many nominations across the British Independent Film Awards and the European Film Awards.
Both Natalie and Emily were extremely different and very original, which is a rare thing nowadays. They avoid the obvious, and are capable of playing complex and conflicting attitudes. Above all, they had energy, which is key for a movie. When I brought them together for a workshop, I could see them feeding off of each other well, and I knew that this was going to work.
Pawel has a European sensibility. Whilst he's working with British subject and landscapes, he is much more interested in the essence of things- rather than the usual obsession with class and surface of contemporary life. He has mixture of lyricism and humor and a love of paradox and mystery which set him apart from the rest of British filmmaking, particularly the social realist tradition.
The novel of the same title, My Summer of Love by Helen Cross, only served as a blueprint for the film. Whereas the novel pays a lot of attention to the social background of England in the 1980s, Pawlikowski reduced the book to its essentials and focused on the relationship between the girls. Most of the characters in the novel were left out in the film and the character Phil was invented and added by Pawlikowski, who had previously directed a documentary on born-again Christians in Yorkshire. In many interviews Pawlikowski said that he was not interested in portraying typical teenage life in England, but he wanted to give the movie a certain "timeless feeling".
[...]If you wanted to make a film about British teenagers it would be ... well, it wouldn't interest me, let's put it like that. They'd be listening to music I hate, watching TV all the time, and talking about Big Brother. I needed to remove it, to get to the essence of adolescence without the paraphernalia of today. In a way I am arrested in my adolescent emotions, like most of us I think are, so [the film is] very personal, funnily enough, despite it being about two girls. I identify with Mona to an unhealthy degree [laughs], so the main thing was to make these teenagers the sort of teenagers I could relate to myself, slightly more timeless and removed from now.— Pawel Pawlikowski,
My Summer of Love was first screened at the Edinburgh Film Festival, being released across the UK on 5 November 2004. In the US, the film was initially screened at the Seattle International Film Festival on 20 May 2005, being eventually given a limited released across the US on 17 June 2005.
In the US, the film grossed $90,000 on its opening weekend, in 17 theaters; and went on to be released across 63 theaters, grossing a total $1,000,915 in the 8 weeks of its release. Worldwide, it grossed an additional $1,766,061, for a lifetime gross of $2,766,976.
The film was met with almost universal acclaim, as indicated by a weighted average score of 82 out of 100 from Metacritic. It currently holds a Fresh rating of 90% based on 87 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes. According to the site's consensus, "My Summer of Love is a moody, bittersweet love story featuring outstanding performances from the leads."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, who gave it 3/4 stars, described it as "a movie that is more about being an age, than coming-of-age", while A.O. Scott of The New York Times termed it "a triumph of mood and implication", and James Berardinelli of ReelViews, called it a "gem" lost in the "hype" of Hollywood blockbusters.
Not all criticism was positive, however, with Ty Burr of The Boston Globe, calling it "a conceit on a number of levels", and described it as "confused between an 'artistic' lesbian movie and Heavenly Creatures", which he declared to be "superior", while Steve Schneider of Orlando Weekly called it "slight and predictable at its core". The unfavorable comparison to Heavenly Creatures was echoed by Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews.
Awards and nominations
My Summer of Love was nominated for the British Independent Film Award at the 2004 British Independent Film Awards, the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film at the 2005 BAFTAs, the Best New British Feature award at the 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival, the European Film Award at the 2005 European Film Awards, the ALFS award at the 2005 London Critics Circle Film Awards, and the 2005 Directors Guild Of Great Britain Awards. Out of these it won the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film at the BAFTAs, the Directors Guild Of Great Britain Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in British Film, the Best New British Feature at the Edinburgh Film Festival, and the ALFS award at the London Critics Circle Film Awards.
- "My Summer of Love (2005)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
- "My Summer of Love (2004)-Release dates". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
- "My Summer Of Love reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 12 February 2010.
- "My Summer Of Love". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 8 July 2012.
- Ebert, Roger (17 June 2005). "My Summer of Love :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
- Scott, A.O. (17 June 2005). "United by a Sisterly Bond, Friends Explore Teenage Love". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
- Berardinelli, James. "My Summer Of Love". ReelViews. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
- Burr, Ty (17 June 2005). "Intense 'Summer' wilts under hazy direction, Friends Explore Teenage Love". Boston Globe. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
- Schneider, Steve (14 July 2005). "Before A Fall". Orlando Weekly. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
- Clifford, Robin (22 June 2005). "My Summer Of Love". Reeling Reviews. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
- "My Summer of Love (2004)- Awards". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
- Official website
- My Summer of Love at the Internet Movie Database
- My Summer of Love at Box Office Mojo
- My Summer of Love at Metacritic
- My Summer of Love at Rotten Tomatoes