12 June 2013

Summer In February Review

Rating: 15
Release Date: 14th June 2013 (UK)
Director: Christopher Menaul
Cast: Dominic Cooper, Emily Browning, Dan Stevens

Set against the idyllic backdrop of the Cornish coast, Summer in February is a haunting true tale of love and betrayal amongst a group of bohemian artists during the beginning of the 20th Century. Dominic Cooper stars as Alfred Munnings, the artist famed for his outspoken stance against modernism, and Emily Browning is Florence Carter-Woods, an aspiring artist whose introduction to the group sparks an interest from more than one viable suitor. Alongside the land owner responsible for the estate - Gilbert Evans, who is played by Dan Stevens - the trio form a tumultuous love triangle and friendships are tested to the limit as their passion for art soon becomes second to their desire for romance.

From the outset it is never too clear which direction the story will follow; as a biography focusing on Alfred Munnings the picture is considerably lacking in back story, and the audience are not provided with a full picture of what appears to be an intriguing character, with is a shame as Cooper's charismatic performance is a highlight of the film. The character of Florence is also not fleshed out enough for the audience to empathise with her, despite Browning's best attempts at bringing depth to the role which unfortunately lacks any real emotional impact.

Director Christopher Menaul does make great use of the beautiful Cornish scenery, with a number of scenes taking place amongst the luscious green woods and the inviting waters of the coastline, as Alfred paints portraits of a number of ladies who make his acquaintance, much to the frustration of Florence. It would seem that the reliable and trustworthy Gilbert would make the perfect partner for her but she eventually succumbs to the advances of Alfred, with his cheeky rogue persona weighing in his favour. The inevitable heartbreak hits the lovelorn Gilbert more than once and the story told throughout Summer in February is at times touching in its raw portrayal of romance and devotion, but could have had a greater impact if more time was invested in portraying the character's motives.

A number of characters are honoured with a small epilogue even though their appearances throughout Summer in February have little impact on the story. It is always interesting for factually based films to extend the story prior to the credits but only when this adds to characters that the audience develop an affection for, and most within Chirstopher Menaul's period piece do not have the required screentime for an emotional connection to take hold.

As a period romance, Summer in February will inevitably please fans of the genre, although those hoping for a more detailed character study of the Edwardian artists residing at the Cornish colony may be slightly disappointed. A fine diversion, but ultimately a forgettable one, Summer in February would be more suited for a primetime Saturday television slot than a trip to the cinema.


Tom Bielby

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