My Summer of Love

Year: 2005
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Writer: Pawel Pawlikowski/Helen Cross
Cast: Nathalie Press, Emily Blunt, Paddy Considine
'Acting' means pretending to be someone you're not as a profession. Today's acting landscape seems to be more about creating caricatures for pre-packaged entertainment brands, and the personalities that comprise the big business movie industry are only part of it.

It's hard to imagine a Schwarzenegger role where Arnie cries to his therapist because he feels out of control over his life; we expect him to saddle up with a middy gun in hand and not only get his life in control but that of the enemy base/village full of commie sympathizers/corrupt elites.

Any actor who has the economic power to open a movie (those with their names are above the title) is a brand name no different than Coke, Microsoft or Nike. As such, they work by brand association. The Bruce Willis brand is an everyday Joe devoted to his family who doesn't mind using a John Wayne swagger and busting heads practicality to get things done. The Tom Cruise brand is one of similar heroism but with an 'everyone wants my life', Calvin Klein-esque sex appeal.

Which is why it's a pleasure to see such a high quality film like My Summer of Love with little known leads who come with no such character expectations and free us from always waiting for the real Arnie, Tom, Mel or Russ to show up and do what we know they will.

Sometimes the inexperience and discomfort of unknowns shows, but in director Pawlikowski's hands, newcomers Press and Blunt shine like the dreamy, fragrant sunlight that infuses so many of the scenes.

Pawlikowski's lush story about how the grass looks greener no matter what side you inhabit, it's about as real as you can get.

The leads' performances are more natural than most Hollywood actors can muster in a whole career. Mona lives in a sleepy and picturesque Welsh village where her life seems to be a dead end. Almost without exception the film takes a dim view of men, from Mona's 'boyfriend' (who takes her out in his car for backseat sex and dumps her when she starts coming on too strong), to her brother, ex crim Phil (Considine, the only recognizable face in the movie), now a born again Christian whose acceptance of the Lord is laced with not a small amount of desperation and who we suspect is merely lost finding his identity.

Left to her own devices, Mona makes her own fun until she comes across rich girl Tamsin (Blunt), who lives in a palatial home surrounded by an indifferent family and who represents the first thing Mona's had to a true friend in what feels like a long time.

The two girls become inseparable friends and erstwhile lovers, and watching Mona let go of her guarded self is a pleasure to watch. Together the girls embark on their own fantasy world of love and justice not unlike the bond between Pauline and Juliet in Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures.

The story builds to a shattering conclusion but in Pawlikowski's hands the film as a whole is a visual work of art. The British Isles summer is captured beautifully as Pawlikowski makes inspiring use of sunlight, backlighting many scenes with it and drizzling a golden and organic quality throughout the movie.

No matter which way you look at it; whether at the performances, the casting, the locations, the film medium as painter's canvas or a coming of age story that captures the agony and joy of human connections (and lack of them), My Summer of Love is a beautiful movie.

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