Summer in February
Notions of art and life are tragically played out by a bohemian colony of artists in this new period drama. Based on Jonathan Smith’s novel about a real-life love triangle, Summer in February is set in Cornwall before the First World War. Director Christopher Menaul’s cinematography beautifully conveys the aesthetics of the scenery and the characters’ emotional turmoil, though the narrative is somewhat unconvincing.
This is Dan Stevens’ (Downton Abbey) big screen debut. Playing the sensible and respectable Captain Gilbert Evans, he doesn’t venture outside of his comfort zone and is essentially Matthew Crawley all over again. This isn’t necessarily disappointing – Stevens’ character counterbalances the personality of his good friend, the decadent and erratic artist AJ Munnings (Dominic Cooper). Inevitably, they both fall for the new girl on the block, the beautiful and witty aspiring artist Florence Carter-Wood (Emily Browning), and tragedy ensues.
Summer in February opens with Captain Gilbert and artist AJ enjoying a jolly horse ride along the stunning and desolate Cornish coast. It is not completely deserted though as amongst the rocks a nude lady poses for a life painting session. This is nicely contrasted with a merry pub scene where Browning’s character first enters the artist set by interrupting AJ’s ad hoc live poetry performance.
As the narrative develops and relationships seemingly form, some questionable gaps leave the audience feeling a little lost as to the meaning and purpose behind it all. This is a shame as the story is based on real life events. AJ (Alfred) Munnings is regarded as one of England’s finest painters of horses, despite being blind in one eye, and an outspoken enemy of Modernism. But here his personality and achievements don’t seem believable. Florence and Captain Gilbert have instant chemistry and often become entangled in “deep and meaningful” conversations that, for some unexplained reason, only seem to spur on their tragic separation.
The great cast, costumes and locations – you can literally smell and feel the salty sea air – bring the film to life, despite the sense that the plot has been lost. A heartbreaking ending makes it worthwhile if you’re the brooding, artistic type, or just a Downton Abbey fan.
Summer in February is released nationwide on 14th June 2013.
Watch the trailer for Summer in February here: