22 June 2011

Pawel Pawlikowski’s My Summer of Love (2004)

My Summer of Love is directed by Polish-born Pawel Pawlikowski, and was filmed in and around Todmorden, Hebden Bridge, and Brighouse, all in West Yorkshire. It is loosely based on Helen Cross's novel of the same name, which was published in 2001.

The plot involves two alienated teenaged girls, Mona (Nathalie Press) and Tamsin (Emily Blunt), during one summer. Mona is working-class without parents and lives with her brother Phil (Paddy Considine), whereas Tamsin is upper-middle-class but feels like an orphan as her mother is with a theater company, and her father with his secretary lover.

The attraction between the two is instant, right from the moment that Tamsin looks down from her horse at the sleeping Mona, who has tired of pushing her motorless moped.  For Mona, the attraction seems to be the exotic, as she is whirled into a merry-go-round of increasingly intense sexual passion, drink and psychedelic mushrooms, and retributive actions to Tamsin's father (a garden gnome thrown through his car window) and to Mona's former boyfriend (telling his wife about their sordid affair). For Tamsin, the relationship is a relief from the boredom of being alone, but probably far more importantly a chance to show off her cultural knowledge to Mona, as she recommends that she reads Nietzsche, plays Saint-Saëns's 'The Swan' on the cello, and rattles off a few sensationalized details of Edith Piaf's biography.

The mention of the words 'The Swan' is Mona's cue to tel Tamsin that she lives at The Swan pub, which has been turned into a religious house by Phil, an ex-con who is now a born-again Christian who shortly after - with a number of his acolytes - walks up Pendle Hill, Lancashire, to erect a huge wooden cross for the purpose of cleansing the people below.  His sexual lust gets the better of him, though, and Tamsin exposes him as a religious hypocrite.

Several times in  the background, strains of Piaf's 'La Foule' play, emphasizing constant movement, joy, intoxication...

Sadly, this is as yet Pawlikowski's latest movie, and his adaptation of Magnus Mills's The Restraint of Beasts was canceled owing to unfortunate family circumstances.

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