My Summer of Love

(2005) *** R
86 min. Focus Features. Director: Pawel Pawlikowski. Cast: Nathalie Press, Emily Blunt, Paddy Considine, Dean Andrews, Michelle Byrne.

Pawel Pawlikowski's My Summer of Love tells an archetypal story of summer love, destined to change with the season. Mona (Nathalie Press), a working-class girl in the Yorkshire countryside, meets Tamsin (Emily Blunt), a girl with the run of her house while her wealthy family's away. The two are desperately lonely and have been burned by men, but their turn to lesbian romance seems also to tap into something deeper than their individual emotional needs.

The playful courtship runs afoul of family, primarily Mona's ex-criminal, supposedly born-again older brother Phil, played by Paddy Considine of In America and Cinderella Man. Phil has gathered townspeople around him to shore up his fragile faith and help him to raise a giant cross over the valley, and when he gets wind of his sister's wanton wanderings, the tinpot tyrant bullies her even more than usual, locking her into her room.

Though the clash of hypocritical fundamentalism and sexual liberation doesn't come across with much nuance here, screenwriters Michael Wynne and Pawlikowski (working from Helen Cross's novel) have a plot-twist ace in the hole that colors all that has come before. They also have two main attractions in Press and Blunt, whose characterizations are expressively detailed and never rely on declamatory dialogue or excessive behavior, making My Summer of Love a different kind of summer movie.

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