Losing her parolee brother (Paddy Considine, working with very little here) to the "loving" word of Jesus, teenaged Mona (Nathalie Press) is left to fend for herself during a long summer at home. She soon meets Tamsin (Emily Blunt), a rich, pampered girl who looks to Mona for friendship and emotional support. The two quickly become best friends, which eventually leads to romance. However, as the summer starts to fade into fall, Mona finds that her perfect world might not realistically be what she had in mind.
Capturing the whirlwind turmoil of young love, when every look and breath is vital and revelatory, is a difficult prospect. Director Paul Pavlikovsky accepts the challenge in filming Helen Cross' novel, "My Summer of Love" (IMDb listing), a story that rests entirely on developing a relationship between two needy young girls during a particularly taxing summer. I give credit to Pavlikovsky; he certainly achieved the right mixture of emotions.
"Summer" is a twisted tale of newborn love, obsession (both romantic and religious), and the realities of losing oneself in fantasy. Set in a small English town, Pavlikovsky does a first-rate job clearing out the rest of the film to focus on these two girls and their burgeoning romance. "Summer" is an intimate creation, which it needs to be since the picture doesn't have much in the plot department. The film is a sensory experience, based around feelings of love and anger, both of which are represented strongly in the screenplay by Pavlikovsky and Michael Wynne. To make it work, the audience has to be right up there in the heat of the moment, breathing in these two teenagers and their passions, dreams, and desires. "Summer" is at its best when Pavlikovsky keeps his spotlight on Mona and Tamsin, developing their fantasy world into a fevered pitch, which overshadows some of the more useless moments of the tale, like when the girls tinker with a Ouija board or ingest some hallucinogens.
"Summer" is a prime showcase for Emily Blunt and Nathalie Press, two young English actresses given a shot at the big time with this film, and they meet the challenge brilliantly. The picture presents some hard trials for the actresses, the largest of which is balancing between reality and fantasy without popping either bubble. While Blunt gets the juicer role of the seductress Tamsin, Press' Mona is the film's focal point. Pavlikovsky's endlessly-zooming camerawork does its best to try and force the magic of the moment, but the real gems of the film are scenes when Mona realizes her place in the community. She's the only sane person in an asylum of toxic personalities. It's incredibly fluid and emotional work here from the talented Press, and she makes the film haunting in her own unique and subtle ways.
Filmfodder Grade: B