Film Review: Summer in February



This period drama set on the Cornish coast is centred around a tragic love triangle in the Edwardian artists’ scene. Timid Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey) and wild, eccentric artist AJ Munnings (played by Dominic Cooper, known for The Duchess and Fleming) fall in love with beautiful Florence Carter-Wood, played by Emily Browning (The Man Who Sued God. Sucker Punch). Faced with the choice between the two men, Emily decides to marry AJ on a whim, a decision with fatal consequences.

Despite the promising cast and attention to detail with regard to costumes and locations, the film is lacking in many areas. The characters remain stereotypes whose decisions seem at best erratic, which makes it difficult to emphasize with them. Florence knows that the spontaneous engagement was a mistake yet still goes along with the marriage despite her own doubts and her family’s disapproval of AJ which would make it easy to break the engagement in the liberal artists’ community. It is equally unclear why Gilbert voluntarily leaves for Nigeria, considering he loves Florence and voices regret over the separation. Maybe this is due to the complexity of the story, which could not adequately be accommodated in a 100min feature film.

Some scenes are unintentionally amusing, such as Florence’s suicide attempt featuring a bottle clearly labelled “poison” (just to make sure we really understand why she is unwell afterwards…) and Gilbert’s rant about being more experienced in life because he has eaten horse-soup (horse-soup!), not because he purchased a product from the Tesco value range but because he served in the war in South Africa (never mind the starving, dying and killing, having eaten horse-soup is far more harrowing to the true, horse-loving Edwardian gentleman).

The music is overwhelming during large parts of the film and appears to be used not to support the unfolding drama but to make up for the lack of interaction between the characters. The direction is uninspired and we spend most of the film looking at Emily Browning casting tragic looks at the camera. A keen lover of period drama will enjoy this film for its period costumes and dramatic scenery. For everyone else, it might be more of a horse-soup experience.

Director: Christopher Menaul
Cast: Dominic Cooper, Emily Browning, Dan Stevens, Hattie Morahan, Mia Austen
Runtime: 100min

In Cinemas June 14

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