My Summer of Love
Lesbian movie romances are too often clunky and tedious affairs. Hollywood—reflecting U.S. society’s own slow, contentious split from homophobia—was slow to bring overtly lesbian romances to multiplexes, with art-house indie and international fare only marginally ahead of this too-gradual curve. An unfortunate consequence of this neglect is that filmmakers both foreign and domestic produced far too many naive and simplistic efforts, as though hundreds of lesbian When Hannah Met Sallys must be made before the genre can evolve to more artful and sophisticated fare.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s My Summer of Love is an exception to the rule, thanks to Pawlikowski’s assured hand and three excellent performances. Blue-collar Yorkshire, England, resident Mona (Nathalie Press) lives and works at the local pub, the Swan, with her brother Phil (Paddy Considine), and she is intensely aware of her life’s stagnant listlessness, but has little insight into how to escape her lot—and the repressiveness of Phil’s conversion to fundamental Christianity. A chance meeting with Tamsin (Emily Blunt), the area’s spoiled little rich girl, allows Mona glimpses into a different way of living. The two dance to Edith Piaf and Gilberto Gil, bond over Tamsin’s stories of losing a sister to anorexia, and fall in love. So why does a sense of doom pervade the proceedings?
Like Lukas Moodysson’s Fucking Amal, My Summer of Love has much more to offer than same-sex sex sentiment. Pawlikowski doesn’t pretend that homosexuality necessarily results in a more pure and/or lasting love than other romances—and, thankfully, neither does he overwhelm the movie with lesbianism exotica. Instead, he presents Mona and Tamsin’s affair as one natural element of a thoughtful and detailed movie that, in a tight and efficient 80-odd minutes, explores Christian revivalism, class, and life in a small British industrial town. In so doing Pawlikowski delivers on the promise of 2000’s memorable Last Resort and confirms his position alongside Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar) as one of the most interesting British filmmakers of the last decade.