Review: “My Summer Of Love” (2004)

Alternatively titled The Bi-Curious Travails of Supple Girlskin in Yorkshire Countryside.

My Summer of Love falls directly into the category of foreign (typically French, German, or in this case, British) coming-of-age female-led romantic dramas about pretty young things discovering their inner Black Swan and unleashing rabid pussies full’a hormones. Someone also usually gets killed, attempts strangulation, or just lurks in blind corners and gives us a she’s-up-to-something taste in our gums. Kristin Scott Thomas spends Sunday afternoons making cameos in these movies when she and Charlotte Rampling finish their convo about Catherine Deneuve‘s newest face.

And so these withholding films tend to fall into suspense genres as well. Which makes them all the more exciting for our dastardly consumption.

I’ve shown this movie to new boyfriends (“hey wanna watch something cool?!”), to unwanted boyfriends (“hey wanna think I’m crazy?!”), and straight friends, too. It titillates some and mystifies others, no matter their preference for button or pole. Here-to-for, ergo, I recommend you fall into it, at the very least to see if it turns you into a sleek British schoolgirl.

The mystery at hand is strange. Hazy camerawork and an original score by electro-lounge duo Goldfrapp (perfect music, by the way, for jerking off or writing on the walls with your mom’s lipstick) tell us immediately that isn’t a fairly standard story, but a dream-like myth. The plot unfolds like a satin sheet billowing by an open window.  Clever and restrained, it leads you by the hand through Bronte-esque bedrooms, open meadows and ouija boards until suddenly it’s the end credits, and you’re breathless and tearful.

Two girls, one working-class, mistreated Mona (little-known Nathalie Press) and one rich, glamorous Tamsin (Emily Blunt), meet on a patch of grass. Don’t these girls’ names “Mona” and “Tamsin” just make you wanna call yourself Imogen Poots or Juno Temple and run streaking in the woods while Eddie Redmayne chases you with a wind instrument?

Mona has just fallen off her broken motorbike. Tamsin sits high on a white horse. Mona lives above a pub with her born-again, ex-con, fellow orphan brother. Tamsin is vacationing with her family in a palatial country home. Interests piqued, they walk each other home — and so an unlikely friendship is kindled.

Mona is quickly unnerved by the newly Christian antics of her only friend and brother (fuckin’ sexy as fuckin’ fuck Paddy Considine, who luckily clocks in at least one erotic scene here), so in rejecting him she seeks solace in the confident, alluring Tamsin, the girl born with a silver spoon. As for Tamsin’s motivations, we’re not entirely clear. She does, however, grow increasingly attracted to Mona and confides in her some devastating family secrets.

After a series of terribly British events – drinking wine and passing out in knolls, playing violins on a grassy tennis court, dancing to Edith Piaf, breaking windows with a ceramic gnome, taking shrooms and summoning the spirit of someone’s dead sister (wait, what?) - the girls are inseparable and devoted. We get quite a few summery sex scenes. All the while, Mona’s brother suspects his lil’ sis’s new relationship isn’t what it seems. As do we.

Suffice to say, the real “thriller” aspects are presented in fleeting glimpses — haunting looks, ominous tones, doubt, deceit. That is, until, the clincher of a final act. My Summer of Love is a web, a puzzlebox I’m still yet to totally unwrap. There’s no gore, but it’s not a slasher (this ain’t Haute Tension). There are no weapons: this is pure, psychological Catfight Village.

Director Pawel Pawlikowski seems to get his influence from the more respectable camp of emotional low-budget dramas, rather than claustrophobic handheld horrors. The actors are awesome. I don’t know how Emily Blunt achieved superstardom in the states (or why Bijou Phillips keeps calling me…), but if American producers saw her performance in this, that may be a clue. She’s talented. Nathalie Press is hard to swallow with that feisty, chortling accent, but she gives off an appealing firecrotch fury.

My only problems are the same with all foreign art-haus mysteries of this caliber: vagueness. How much can we take before we get pissed off? If you’re easily annoyed, you’ll pull the rip-cord on this one before you reach the halfway mark. You’d be missing a hell of a twist, so it’d be a shame. If you’re like us, though, and you love your cinesnatch getting eaten by beckoning foliage, Goldfrapp and alcohol, you’ll probably want to watch this several times.

In this movie there are no monsters, just a searing, frustrating passion between two women who have no idea what the fuck they are doing. The screenplay (based on a book by Helen Cross, an author who no doubt has had her share of “boarding-school smashes”) is gorgeously honest about this relationship. It was fulfilling to watch as a teenager and see myself portrayed, and it’s fun to watch now and appreciate it as a positive portrayal of isolated, fucked-up sexually confused kids looking for some sympathy.

Trying my damndest to not give away too much, the controversial ending, I believe, avoids any queer villain cliches. It’s not trying to be political. I think it’s just blisteringly honest.

Did I mention its soundtrack is like Viagra?

RATING (OUT OF 5)


My Summer of Love is Rated R for anorexia, strict machines, and gnome cruelty.


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About Ross

Ross studied film at Emerson while working for indie producers, and he critiques shit from a queer POV here and @GingerBredhaus. He also produced 2015 gay horror slasher comedy YOU'RE KILLING ME and creates immersive theater in NYC.