17 July 2015

Summer in February (starring Dominic Cooper and Emily Browning)

We came across this film when in the UK; it was on the special offers shelves at a local supermarket. Described as a powerful love story set in Cornwall, we thought it would make a good addition to our collection, although we had not heard of it before, nor of any of the actors.

We watched it last night with our twenty-something son.

‘Summer in February’, as we discovered after watching it, is a true story set in the early part of the 20th century. It features a group of artists who live, work and socialise in Cornwall. Early scenes set in a pub are probably realistic, but very confusing; even as Brits we had a hard time understanding some of the accents. I should think they would be impossible for anyone from outside the UK.

Moreover, there are so many people in the pub scenes that it was difficult to work out who were the main characters. I nearly gave up watching after fifteen minutes; perhaps I should have done so, as it turned out to be a very depressing film.

The love story angle isn’t, in my view, particularly well played; AJ, the main protagonist (Dominic Cooper), comes across as both cruel and shallow, while Florence, a hopeful young artist (Emily Browning), is naive and selfish. There isn’t much chemistry between them at all. Gilbert (Dan Stevens) is the only reasonable character in the film, and he gets a pretty bad deal.

Apparently the real AJ - also known as Alfred - Cummings was a talented painter of horses; this comes across in the film, but if his private life was half as unpleasant as portrayed, I wouldn’t want one of his paintings, no matter how good it was. I hadn’t previously heard of him or any of the artists shown.

Other characters - Florence’s brother, and another couple - seem almost irrelevant to the story. Presumably they were in the film because they were part of her life, but the plot seems disjointed, and nothing much gets resolved. Perhaps it’s meant to reflect reality too closely.

Still, the scenery is stunning, the settings believable, and I had a good feel for the place and the colony of artists who (apparently) existed there, giving Cornwall its name, later in the century, as a haven for art.

The UK rating is 15, which is appropriate given the subject matter. For some reason there's no US rating. Bad language is not too much of a problem; there are some uses of ‘strong’ words but in the context they were not too disturbing.

The violence is minimal, the intimate love scenes not shown directly. There was, however, some gratuitous nudity which didn’t do anything for the film, and made us even less inclined to like it.

As is probably clear, we didn’t enjoy ‘Summer in February’ and I wouldn’t recommend it. But someone who likes true-story films with gorgeous scenery, and who doesn’t mind a tragic and depressing ending might like this better than we did.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's DVD Reviews

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