Jul 8, 2011

24FPS Top 100: No. 57

57: MY SUMMER OF LOVE [2004]
DIR: Pawel Pawlikowski

Why is it on the list?
Pawel Pawlikowski, though he's worked in the UK and now, with his upcoming new film, in France, is a Polish filmmaker, and that's one of the keys to My Summer of Love. British filmmakers have often seen the north of England as a working class wasteland, where poverty and misery are rife and the world is grey, rainy and depressing. Pawlikowski doesn't paint with that brush; his Yorkshire is lush and beautiful, sunshine pours down, haloing main characters Mona (Natalie Press) and Tamsin (Emily Blunt). This is a film that captures both a place and a time in a vivid way, but that's far from being all that it does.

Based on a novel by Helen Cross (which I've read, and which bears little resemblance to the film, most strikingly in that it's bloody awful), the film is about working class Mona, who lives with her born again older brother (Paddy Considine) in a disused Yorkshire pub. One day, at the beginning of the summer holidays, Mona meets posh Tamsin, and the two begin spending a lot of time together, before falling into an intense romantic relationship.

Emily Blunt has, in the seven years since My Summer of Love, gone on to become a bona fide Hollywood star, and it's not hard to see why; serenely beautiful, she also demonstrates a wide ranging talent as Tamsin. It's a complex character, because her motivations and whether she's telling the truth at any given moment are often deliberately hidden, even from her girlfriend. Tamsin is not a very likeable character; pretentious, often inconsiderate and manipulative, but you can also see what she represents for Mona; an escape to a different world, and why that proves seductive. Blunt plays all the notes beautifully, and she's especially effective in a cruel moment in which she tries to seduce Mona's brother Phil.

Paddy Considine is often billed as the British DeNiro (Taxi Driver DeNiro, not Meet the Fockers DeNiro) and this performance might be exhibit A in making that case. He's incredibly intense as Phil, and even at his most pious and controlled, Considine lets us sense the violence in the character, now directed into spiritual fervour. He's extraordinary when he's held in, and genuinely trying to give his sister comfort, and equally so when, inevitably, Phil explodes. Throughout it's the direct force and focus of his performance which makes Phil so compelling, and such an intriguing character.

However, the best performance in My Summer of Love comes from its least known, and subsequently least rewarded, player; Natalie Press. Mona is probably the most straightforward character; she wears her emotions about Tamsin, and about her Brother (who she feels she has entirely lost to his conversion) firmly on her sleeve and is, for the most part, drolly downbeat about her expectations of life (see both Standout Scenes and Memorable Lines). A Londoner, Press nails the Yorkshire accent pitch perfectly, and makes Mona, despite her naivete and brash manner, extremely winning, so much so that you find yourself worrying for her as you begin to see more and more of what Tamsin is like. Though she has a quite straightforward character, Press has more registers to play than her co-stars, and she hits the humour, the romance, and the obsession in Mona all with great clarity and conviction. It's a subtler performance than the others, but one that sneaks up on you.

As I mentioned earlier, Pawel Pawlikowski gives this film a very particular feel with his visuals, when Mona and Tamsin are together it is often soft lit, even dreamlike, particularly when they are in Tamsin's house, while at home and around town with Mona the film has a slightly more stark visual approach. Pawlikowski takes a tasteful approach to the one extended love scene, but still makes it feel like an intense experience (before undersutting it in the next scene with the film's funniest moment), and he also handles the shift in tone for the film's rather disturbing coda (which makes it feel ever more closely related to Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures) with great assurance and aplomb. Adding to the dreamy, summery, feel is the score by Goldfrapp, taken largely from their first album; Felt Mountain, it suits both the subject and visuals down to the ground, but never dominates the film.

My Summer of Love is a beautifully constructed film, full of feeling and fine acting, I wish it were rather better known.

Standout Scenes
Sadly none of these scenes were available to embed from youtube.

Mona's Ambitions: A very funny and revealing scene in which Mona tells Tamsin how she thinks her life will turn out (see below for the line)

Going Dancing: Mona and Tamsin take magic mushrooms and go dancing; at a pensioners ballroom dancing night, Pawlikowski and Goldfrapp give it dreamlike atmosphere.

Portrait: Separated from Tamsin, Mona draws her picture on her bedroom wall, and kisses that instead.

Memorable Lines
Tamsin: So what are you going to do with your life?
Mona: I'm gonna be a lawyer. [pause] I'm gonna get a job in an abattoir, work really hard, get a boyfriend who's like... a bastard, and churn out all these kids, right, with mental problems. And then I'm gonna wait for the menopause... or cancer.

Phil: What is wrong with you?
Mona: I just miss me brother.
Phil: I'm here.
Mona: That ain't you. It ain't.
Phil: Oh no, this is me, this is the real me.
Mona: I want the old Phil
Phil: Well that old Phil, he didn't make me very happy.
Mona: He made me happy. I love my brother, he used to be real. I haven't got any family, me home's changed, no one fancies me... [breaks into tears]
Phil: [hugging Mona] Oh Jesus watch over this child, watch over her...
Mona: Oh no, fuck off! Fuck off!

Tamsin: If you leave me, I'll kill you.
Mona: If you leave me, I'll kill you... and then I'll kill myself.

If you'd like to buy this film, and help out 24FPS at the same time, please use the links below. Thanks.

No comments:

Post a Comment