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My Summer of Love
Tchaikovsky Cultural Center 
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski. Written by: Pawel Pawlikowski & Michael Wynne; based on the novel by Helen Cross. Starring: Nathalie Press, Emily Blunt, Paddy Considine. 86 mins. UK.

By Sam Gerrans

Review top sheet: this is a strong story well told.

This film is original, surprising and interesting with a haunting afterglow which stayed with me well into the next day.

It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you go to the cinema to be enriched rather than distracted, I recommend you catch this one.

Will you like this film?

Yes, if: you liked “Lost in Translation” or “Sideways” – I certainly rate both films very highly
No, if: loud music, visual fireworks, plotless violence, Sci-Fi or horror are your thang
Maybe, if: anyone you know has recently joined the Unification Church

Comments: this is the first decent film it has been my lot to review for some time. And good thing, too. I was getting tired of bitching and, happily for me, now I don’t have to.

But because of the nature of the film, there is a limited amount I can say without spoiling it, so I’m keeping this review short and my points general.

Pawlikowski has delivered a brutal, tender, insightful and humorous human drama devoid of sentimentality or political badgering. I enjoyed it a lot.

The first ten minutes appear amateurish. I wasn’t sure the director knew what he was doing. But perhaps the first ten minutes were shot first and he was just getting settled in at the helm of the project. So hang in there; it’s worth it.

Although set roughly now in time, it has a bare-shelved 1970s feel to it. The slightly jittery documentary-style camerawork is a bit unsettling at first, but I came away feeling that it wasn’t pointless pretentiousness – it really does serve a purpose. Just try not to sit too close to the screen if you don’t travel well.

Out-of-five star ratings:

• Story: *****
• Dialogue: *****
• Substance: *****
• Film craft: ***

Story comments: this is a compelling, strong story which focuses on three people and one small town. Yeah, this is blatantly the land of low-budget cinema. But it makes no difference because the script is great. Give me “My Summer of Love” over any of the multi-million dollar froth fests I have endured recently, any day.

While it focuses mainly on a girl from an underprivileged and potentially violent background and her intimate relationship with another girl, it doesn’t have a politically-correct, man-hating agenda to bore you to tears with.

The story oozes underlying conflict from every pore and despite its essentially dramatic form, the plot of this film will surprise you. I’ll say no more.

Dialogue comments: the dialogue is natural, vibrant and engaging. The two girls in the film, played by Nathalie Press and Emily Blunt, represent different ends of the social spectrum, but nowhere do we descend into caricature. Both are fully-rounded, convincing personas and both performances are first-rate. This film stands to kick their careers forward substantially.

The girls’ relationship – which is the essence of the film – is explored with tasteful insight, free of the shock-value prurience or agenda-driven badgering a lesser film would have concentrated on.

As a viewer, I felt complimented and impressed.

Substance comments: this film is about intimacy, the nature of belonging, and true (as opposed to fake) personas. It’s complex, fascinating fare.

Film craft: the feeling is a little stark – I prefer more sumptuousness myself, but if it’s a matter of this or more “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, I’ll put up with the starkness. But since the story is so strong dramatically, we end up not noticing that we’re cut-price shopping.

The camerawork has a “realistic” documentary aspect to it in places. While not my cup of tea, it makes a justified contribution to the whole and helps make the most of limited production resources.

A taste of the story: Mona (Nathalie Press) is an orphan. Her brother Phil (Paddy Considine) has ceased running a pub and beating people up in favour of born-again Christianity. Effectively abandoned by her only living relative, Mona finds friendship and intimacy with Tamsin (Emily Blunt), a pretty and pampered rich girl.

Sam Gerrans is a freelance writer and translator:

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