My Summer of Love

Pawel Pawlikowski’s “My Summer of Love” opens with a girl alone in a room, drawing her love’s face on a wall; it’s a crude drawing, but for her, it’s a way to be with her love across the walls that separate them.

Back at the beginning of the story, we meet that girl, Mona (Nathalie Press), who has already given up on surprise and joy and just goes through the motions of life. Along comes Tamsin (Emily Blunt), a mysterious rich girl and “a bad influence” home for the summer after getting suspended from school. They bond over wine and petty vengeances, and they spend days on end together because, in their valley, there’s not much else to do.

Both girls are somewhat adrift in their lives; Mona’s brother Phil (Paddy Considine) has returned from prison an enthusiastic Christian that Mona doesn’t recognize and can’t connect with. Tamsin’s moneyed family hides secrets that are eating her alive, including her sister’s death from anorexia and her father’s infidelity. Soon, Mona and Tamsin are all they have because they’ve shut out the world around them in favor of their intoxicating summer romance.

Much like “Heavenly Creatures,” Peter Jackson’s 1994 masterpiece about a destructive friendship, an atmosphere of dread surrounds “My Summer of Love”; you know that this tale is leading to some sort of cataclysmic and dire end (and in a way, it does), but it’s not what you expect and, despite some ambiguity, it is an appropriate surprise.

While I did like this movie, I wonder about films like this; friendship films about boys usually entail bonding and the deep ties that can’t be vocalized, while girls’ friendships films always seem to have a heart of darkness to them. They almost seem to have an insidious theme that girls can’t just be friends or lovers, something sinister has to be going on behind those closed doors. More than likely, I’m overanalyzing things here (and watching too much “Law and Order”), but it’s a disconcerting note in a film that gets a lot of things right about how isolating and thrilling a new love can be.

“My Summer of Love” (2004)

Written and Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

Starring: Nathalie Press (Mona)

Emily Blunt (Tamsin)