MY SUMMER OF LOVE
Desperation and the Need to Belong
Release Date: June 17, 2005
Starring: Nathalie Press, Emily Blunt
and Paddy Considine
Rating: R for sexuality, language and
some drug use
Runtime: 86 minutes
Distributor: Focus Features
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Executive Producer: Chris Auty, Emma Hayter, and
David M. Thompson
Producer: Chris Collins and Tanya
Writer: Pawel Pawlikowski and Michael
Address Comments To:David Linde and James Schamus
100 North Crescent Drive, Garden Level
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Phone: (310) 385-4000
Fax: (310) 385-4408
Mona is a lonely high school-aged girl in rural England. She lives with her brother, who has just emerged from jail as a born-again Christian. Their parents are dead. While riding her bike, Mona meets Tamsin, a rich girl who has been suspended from her boarding school. Tamsin is aggressive, beautiful and daring – and thus unlike Mona. They form an awkward friendship that grows rapidly as the two simply have no one else with whom to talk or spend time.
After weeks of exploring the countryside, the girls believe they are falling in love. They begin sleeping together, and Tamsin pledges that they will “never be parted.” Mona’s brother Phil finds out about their affair and, heavily under the sway of his newfound Christian fundamentalism, stops Mona from seeing her girlfriend by locking her in a bedroom. Phil loses his faith after a humiliation at Tamsin’s and Mona’s hands, and Mona tries to run away with Tamsin, only to learn a cold, difficult secret and wind up alone again.
For most of the movie, the newly converted Phil seems sincere, if dramatic, about his faith. He and his friends construct a replica of the Cross and stand it up on a tall hill over their village, a grand gesture which invites accusations of hypocrisy. While Phil tells a girl about the Gospel, he almost kisses her, and the movie suggests that his faith is therefore fake. (A Christian reading might see Phil’s faith as incomplete, or merely subject to human frailty.) Later, Phil admits that his faith is a forgery after his sister pretends to commit suicide.
Mona and Tamsin think Christianity is foolish and fraudulent, and the movie vindicates their opinion. Phil tries to find community with religion, but it fails. Likewise, Mona has no parents and feels totally alienated from her brother, so she builds her ersatz community with the immediate gratification that she finds in sex and lesbianism. Tamsin forms another parallel line, as her parents ignore her and she is separated from her friends, but her antidote for loneliness comes from the power she wields over Mona. Each of these three characters is looking for a family, perhaps even a father or the Father, but they all look in vain places to find it.
MY SUMMER OF LOVE is dull and obvious until the ending, which injects an impressive amount of mystery and reality into the story. The twist exposes all of the characters as pitiful and searching, but the movie doesn’t recognize the seriousness of their problems. They are lost and moving aimlessly, without family, without the guidance of traditional morality.
Clearly, then, this is pretty sobering stuff, and even though it sheds some light on the depths of loneliness some people experience, the filmmakers’ bitterness toward Christianity, as well as their disregard for traditional mores, overwhelm the sensitivity of their observations.
This movie teaches that Christianity is foolish and fraudulent. Its characters try to find community anywhere they can (in religion, sexuality, friends) but find no substitute for family. They abhor the Christian worldview and act out against traditional biblical morality. In addition to some light lesbian sex scenes, there is strong foul language and occult elements. Clearly, this is pretty sobering stuff, and even though it sheds some light on the depths of loneliness some people experience, the bitterness toward Christianity, as well as the disregard for traditional mores, poison the sensitivity of the movie’s observations.