My Summer of Love

Focus

The teenage coming-of-age genre has become so littered with angst-filled and sex-deprived young men that it’s refreshing when any film in it veers away from formulaic templates and attempts to do something fresh and original.

Case in point: “My Summer of Love,” a British film from director Paul Pavlikovsky that veers far away from many of the genre’s standard elements. Consider: From of the typical subplot of boy meeting girl, “My Summer of Love” is all about girl meeting girl. Working-class Mona (Natalie Press) lives in a pub with her violent, born-again Christian brother and wallows lonely in teen angst until the intoxicatingly beautiful and wealthy Tamsin (Emily Blunt) arrives in her life. The reason why the posh Tamsin warms up immediately to the attractive yet frumpish Mona is enigmatic, but the intriguing love story that follows quickly overshadows the film’s voids of logic.

Relative newcomers Press and Blunt (TV’s “Empire”) deliver remarkable performances and convey enough teasing innocence and maturity as performers to make their characters’ offbeat adventures both believable and engaging. While many actresses their age star in wack-fests about finding perfect men for Heather Loclear and talking Volkswagens, the two truly hold their own in a film that breaches many standard boundaries.

The teenage lesbian love story aside, “My Summer of Love” also discusses hot-button issues like religious intolerance and anorexia and doesn’t shy away from them for fear of controversy. Still, the film is less about these issues and more about the tumultuous relationship between two girls during the course of one fateful summer and its effects on their psychologically ruinous personalities.

“My Summer of Love” is filmed with a handheld dreaminess around an English countryside that complements the love story of Tamsin and Mona, but the plot eventually falls into the cracks of melodrama. The use of hyper-emotional dialogue increases with the running time and inspires numbness by the finale. And while the delicately filmed sex scenes are mostly tasteful and a far cry from the fetishtic lesbian scenes in most Hollywood movies, even those become repetitive and somewhat gratuitous.

The filmmakers should be commended for creating such a unique version of a genre typically saturated with ludicrous sex comedies and stereotypical dramas starring pop stars. But one can only wish that it didn’t ultimately transform into an extended episode of “The Red Shoe Diaries.”

 

— Hyatt Michaels

 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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