MY SUMMER OF LOVE (Paul Pavlikovsky, 2004)
As Zeus took the form of a swan to seduce Leda, Paul Pavlikovsky's MY SUMMER OF LOVE promises a scorching romance between two girls to entice the viewer, although it proves to be something else altogether.
Despite their differences teenagers Mona (Nathalie Press) and Tamsin (Emily Blunt) form an intense friendship that leads to love. Red-haired, freckled Mona lives above a pub that her born again brother Phil (Paddy Considine) converts into a spiritual meeting place. She's none too pleased that Phil found God in prison. Along comes Tamsin, a beautiful boarding school student who has returned to her parents' enormous home for the summer. Mona and Tamsin bond over lost family members and those still around who they feel have betrayed them. They're an inseparable duo who bristle at Phil's warnings of the devil's temptations at work in their town.
The devil doesn't have horns, a tail, and a pitchfork but a friendly face and seductive lies. Pavlikovsky keeps MY SUMMER OF LOVE compelling because we're never entirely sure if Mona should doubt Phil's conversion or if he has insight into unseen evils plaguing the town. Out of his conviction Phil erects a large cross at the top of the hill in the hope of saving others. The power of transformation runs deep through the film, not only with that specific religious symbol but also with words, images, and music. The swan plays a key role, whether as the name of the pub before it changes into a place of worship, a knickknack Mona's mother had, or the classical music Tamsin plays on her cello. Water and its importance in key moments of transformation comes into play as well.
Coupled with Ryszard Lenczewski's picturesque cinematography, Press and Blunt's natural performances communicate a palpable sense of the summer's heat and the hazy days of adolescence and ardor.
(Review originally appeared as part of my Deep Focus Film Fest day 3 coverage)