My Summer of Love directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, written by Pawlikowski and Michael Wynne from a novel by Helen Cross, with Emily Blunt, Natalie Press and Paddy Considine. 85 minutes. An Odeon Films release. Opens Friday (July 1) at the Cumberland. For times, see page 113. Rating: NNNN
It was bound to happen eventually. After years of pseudo girl-on-girl action in movies as diverse as Wild Things and Head In The Clouds, man needed to create the thinking guy's lesbian film, one he could feel good about and women might tolerate, that wouldn't just tease but would deliver the goods.
Gentlemen, start your engines. Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski has gone one better. Not only will your wife, girlfriend or mother forgive you for seeing this flick, they'll shout its praises themselves. This beautifully crafted love story has much more to offer than the leads' worthy assets.
Based loosely on Helen Cross's novel of the same name, it's a tragic-comic romance, funny one moment, disturbing the next. Think Beautiful Creatures meets Y Tu Mamá También.
Mona (Natalie Press) is a sassy redhead who enjoys torturing her born-again Christian brother Phil (Paddy Considine); Tamsin (Emily Blunt, a sexier Alexis Bledel) is a Nietzsche-reading Edith Piaf fan on leave from boarding school. Their shared boredom brings them together, but it isn't long before these supposed opposites realize its not just ennui they have in common.
Typical? Hardly. Pawlikowski enjoys throwing the genre, as well as our assumptions, on its ear, creating his own romantic ideals. When they meet cute in a field, Tamsin, the exotic beauty, sits astride a horse, gazing down at Mona. No longing gaze is exchanged. Instead, the camera pans from Mona's upside-down eye to the horse's eye and back. It's our first clue, since the opening scene close-up of a crayon drawning of Tamsin's eye, that all is not what it appears.
The unlikely relationship between the rebel and the rich girl is meaty enough on its own, but it's the curious addition of brother Phil, angry prisoner turned religious devotee, that gives the movie that extra punch. As the three lives become intertwined, this adult fairy tale takes on a whole new genre.
Now begin the questions. What is real and what isn't? Is Tamsin the manipulator or is Mona? Who's conning whom, if anyone? You'll have a hell of a time trying to decide.
Though the girls provide the best scenery, the lush English countryside adds to the film's magical appeal, and the haunting score and smartly chosen songs provide some of the best examples of mood music in film. There's no Hans Zimmer predictability here.
Money shots? Forget it. These are beautifully filmed love scenes that nobody could feel dirty about, and the naked truth in Press's and Blunt's star-making performances earned them a bag of British Academy nominations. (The movie won BAFTA best-picture award.)
Rejoice, people. Finally, a real date movie has arrived.