The only thing worse than having to sit through My Summer Of Love, the highly anticipated latest from Polish-born British director Pawel Pawlikowski, is having to navigate an obnoxious taffeta-clad het wedding party overrunning the streets of Yorkville. There was nothing to do but make out with my girlfriend in front of Sassafraz. Our behaviour, however, elicited nothing more than those decidedly polite smiles from that decidedly proud-to-be-progressive contingency of the Yves-Saint-Laurent-bag-and-exceptionally-small-dog-toting rich.
Like my homo liplock, My Summer Of Love is a dreamy reel of celluloid that, while beautifully shot, fancies itself far more affective and compelling than it is, unravelling with lacklustre monotony.
It’s your typical girl-meets-girl storyline, rendered through the clichés of too many girl-meets-girl movies – passion, obsession, compulsion.
Mona (Natalie Press) is a witty, abrasive slice of roughly hewn 16-year-old proletarian beauty who, sans mother and father, lives with her older brother, Phil (Paddy Considine), a reformed ex-con who, having just found Jesus, has converted the pub above which the two live into a makeshift talking-in-tongues prayer parlour for Born Again zealots.
Tamsin (Emily Blunt) is a spoiled rotten, pouty-lipped, sleek sliver of moneyed decadence who, home from boarding school, is dramatically languishing about an empty Tudor mansion with her Edith Piaf records while her family ignores her.
They meet, as most ill-fated Sapphic flings, in the midst of a sweaty summer, on the idyllic moors outside of a small Yorkshire village. While moody Mona lays sullenly in a pool of overgrown grass, Tamsin rides by on – no, not a pony, even better – a snow-white beast of a stallion. Somewhere within the stilted exchange that follows, the unlikely pair opt to befriend one another despite their raging class differences.
Don’t be fooled by the hype. My Summer Of Love is no diabolical teen chiller, it’s not all that funny, nor does it romance. It’s a suffocating blanket of scenic landscapes, ill-motivated characters and mundane plot developments tediously punctuated by the rhythms of Goldfrapp. Unfortunately, Pawlikowski siphoned off the heated backdrop from Helen Cross’s 2002 novel, leaving out the serial rapist/killer, a coal miners’ strike and the threat of nuclear war. Instead he relies solely on his simplistic characters to convey urgency, need, fragility, vulnerability and impending doom – an ambitious endeavour that fails miserably. While Press and Blunt, both first-time leads, do their best to deliver, they don’t have much to work with.
This isn’t a dyke film, nor does it possess even the remotest of queer sensibilities.