Summer in February Film Review. "Ruined with brawling and caterwauling Enchant no more as they did before, And so it ends with friends." (William Ernest Henley.) This is an Edwardian period drama directed by Christopher Menaul based on the period leading up to the first world war. It has been adapted for the screen by Jonathan Smith from his 1995 eponymous novel. Based on a true story set in Cornwall so you might recognise Penzance, Lamorna, Prussia Cove, Holywell and Porthcurno. The scenery is rugged and there are plenty of beach scenes and views of the rolling waves on a moonlit evening adding atmosphere as well as natural beauty. The storyline focuses on a group of Bohemian artists known as the Lamorna Group because of the location of their colony. AJ dominates the group as the enfant terrible without quite achieving its notoriety. He is better known as Alfred Munnings played by Dominic Cooper ( Mamma Mia and My Week with Marilyn.) The others see him as a genius, a great painter and are filled with admiration. He relishes in dominating the group and during rowdy drink sessions he recites atmospheric verse to captivate his audience who are truly smitten. AJ is described as a bibulous boor although in reality he seems more of an arrogant lout than quintessentially Bohemian. Undeniably he is self-centred and prone to violent outbursts especially when he can't get his own way. He becomes brutish with Florence when she is unwilling to consummate their relationship, prepared to rape her, leaving her inconsolable and destroying this illusion of love. His friendship with Captain Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens from Downtown Abbey) seems rather contrived. They are more like polar opposites. For a soldier Gilbert seems very gentle and courteous. Perhaps he's a new breed? He seems well-suited for a match with Florence Carter Wood, an aristocrat, determined to become an artist and independent from her father. Naturally she is depicted as a beautiful and talented young woman and desirable to the two eligible bachelors who are unwittingly vying for her affections. AJ seems paranoid that he is working class; he believes that Florence will civilise him and yet his wildness motivates his passion for the canvas. He seems just as insecure as Florence. I paint. That's what I do. And nothing else matters. I see it and I paint it. He hates Modernism and loathes the works of Pablo Picasso whom he crudely calls Piss-casso. But husband material to an innocent virgin with his experience of women? I don't think so. Florence agrees to sit for the great artist so that she can be tutored by him. He advises her to be bold, to dive in at the deep end and be daring. I will bring you alive and will capture you forever. Years from now they'll look at you and they'll know exactly what I was thinking." But what was he thinking about when he painted her mounted on a horse? It certainly wasn’t love. Perhaps infatuation? He produces a fine work of art called Morning Ride which is exhibited in the Royal Academy alongside his other women. Florence disapproves and feels that she is just another of AJ's conquests alongside Dolly and the gypsy woman. Florence's character (Emily Browning) is rather sketchy but what motivates her to accept AJ's proposal is rather baffling. She may be in love with the idea of his brilliance, love-struck like a child. She is inexperienced and wanting to discover herself and talents through art so she isn't mature enough to make a commitment and acts impulsively. Meanwhile Gilbert dilly dallies too long and the opportunity to have a romantic encounter with the woman he loves is lost. She agrees to marry AJ, something she lives to regret. She knows that they are going to be trapped in a loveless marriage which leaves her suicidal. Gilbert observes from a close distance, still hoping. An unsatisfactory and short-lived marriage followed by a pregnancy could only amount to scandal and humiliation for a vulnerable Florence which it does. She has this self-destructive thread in her character and her demise is tragic. The critics panned the film but I think it is an interesting film although it doesn’t portray the real conflicts in the love triangle or resolve them. AJ eventually became President of the Royal Academy. The soundtrack is beautiful: Siren’s Lullaby, In Perfect Straight and After the Ball. Composer: Benjamin Wallfisch. Worth a watch. REVIEW it by Carol Naylor.
Reading about Dan Stevens leaving Downton Abbey in my Sight & Sound film magazine I was intrigued to learn that before departing for Hollywood he was to star in the Summer In February movie which was shot in Cornwall. I wondered if a soundtrack album had been released prior to the movie opening in cinemas around the UK, and sure enough it had been. It arrived from Amazon 10 days ago and has been on my Hi-Fi ever since as the music is beautifully haunting. I hope to see the actual film this week, but now I can expect wide-open scenes of the Cornish coastline with the theme music making me feel part of the character's world, however I've tried to avoid reading to much about the story line to keep the viewing of it fresh. Great album indeed.
Absolutely loved the film. A true Story, beautifully written by Jonathan Smith, who I had the pleasure of meeting. The cast were splendid - first class actors, the scenery was just sensational, and a true British film of which we should be proud. We need more films of this stature. I give it my full backing and have already seen the film three times!!
[...] The familiarity of this style and these themes aside, it is impossible not to enjoy this score. We'll never know whether the aforementioned resemblances are purely coincidental or to some degree deliberate. Considering Wallfisch previous collaborations with Marianelli, I would expect at least some similarities are deliberate. It matters little, really. More cynical listeners might claim the score to be a little too manipulative and derivative; but not me. The lush themes, colourful orchestrations (for full orchestra, though virtually no brass; and no synths) and Wang's virtuous piano play make this a beautiful and rewarding listening experience that one could easily and happily return to many a time; which is reflected in my rating below. Having already proven his worth in other, more visceral genres, I suspect Wallfisch is one up-and-coming composer to keep a very close eye on.[...]