Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Summer In February (2013)

Based on the novel by Jonathan Smith, Summer of February tells the tale of the Lamorna Group of artists who took up residence in Newlyn, Cornwall in the eary 1900s. The film tells the story of a love triangle between acclaimed artist Alfred Munnings (Dominic Cooper) his protege and first wife, Florence Carter-Wood (Emily Browning) and his best friend Captain Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens)

If Christopher Menaul's film were a painting it's fair to say it would not be a masterpiece. Certainly the landscape in the background is richly detailed and beautiful to look at, but the figures in the foreground are painted with far too light and insubstantial a brushstroke. Andrew Dunn's cinematography captures an English Heritage Cornwall that is simply gorgeous to look at and the period feel is second to none, but the characterisation is terribly underdeveloped, making the melodrama at the film's heart rather uninvolving. 

The Lamorna Group were a fascinating bunch of bohemian artists but, like the recent BBC2 miniseries about the Bloomsbury Group, Life In Squares, the film does little to get under their skin or explain why they were so important. Indeed, we only know they are artists because they recite poetry as if it were the most important thing in the world, they're never more than three foot away from an unclothed woman and they wear battered hats at rakish angles whilst running up expensive bar bills they have no hope, or intention, of settling. They also do terribly drastic and passionate things like quaff cyanide on their wedding day or bully their wives for asking questions about why they daub paint heavily upon their canvasses. Smith's screenplay, adapted from his own novel, does extremely little to invest any heart or depth to his protagonists and, in particular, Emily Browning's Florence is especially underwritten making it hard to care or understand why she feels so upset to have married the swarthy Munnings with the twinkle in his eye instead of the overgrown pink foppish infant Evans who she has done little more than share a cup of tea and a biscuit with prior to this. And when your film hinges on this romantic wrangling, it's a major flaw. I can only hope that Smith's novel is more detailed than this soggy, limp affair.

Still, it's got Hattie Morahan in it and Mia Austen as the seldom clothed artist's model Dolly is a real - and beautiful - woman at least, rather than the unattainable stick insect nudes that normally populate so many films. But really, the two stars out of five I rated this on Letterboxd are mostly for the scenery.

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