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Taken for a ride
on 20 June 2013
The charismatic leader of a bohemian artists' colony in the lovely Cornish coastal valley of Lamorna, A.J. Munnings was correctly predicted by his admiring friends as destined to become the leading painter of his day. As is often the way in a film, the evidence for this is somewhat lacking to the audience.
When the beautiful Florence Carter-Wood escapes from her match-making father to join the group, it is clear from the outset that her enigmatic allure, which may mask darker traits, will draw both the rakish Munnings and his perhaps unlikely best friend, the gentlemanly local land agent Gilbert Evans. One knows it cannot end well, if only because it is 1913, and the Edwardian idyll must be shattered by the debacle of World War 1.
Since this is based on a true story, one has to accept the plot despite a few major incidents which I found implausible. It is well acted, although I thought that Dominic Cooper was insufficiently larger than life to capture Munnings convincingly. The key aspects of the relationship between two male friends caught in a love triangle with the same woman, and the suffocating conventions of Edwardian morality which even bohemian artists could not completely escape needed to be developed in greater depth.
Despite the stunning scenery and pathos of the situation after the initial rumbustious jollity, I was left feeling underwhelmed but have obtained the novel of the same name on which the film is based, since I suspect that this may be more satisfying in, for instance, revealing more about Munnings as a painter, such as his contempt for modern art which is only hinted at in the film. In an infamous speech recorded shortly before his death he claimed that the work of Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso had "corrupted art".