Based on the novel by Jonathan Smith, the story paints a realistic portrait of the dangers of confusing love for an artist with love for his work. Set during the early 20th century in the artist community town of Cornwall, England, this story follows Florence (Emily Browning) as she tries to make a choice between long-time friends Gilbert (Dan Stevens) and AJ (Dominic Cooper). However, she soon realizes she has less of a choice than she originally believed.
Despite what the sweet title may indicate, the film quickly departs from the Jane Austen and “Downton Abbey” pattern of British romantic drama, evolving into a study of love and a critique of its motivations. Elements that are uncommon in this genre make up the twists of this surprising narrative. An undelivered proposal, a sexual assault, and a poisoning attempt set the story apart from neatly planned period dramas.
Instead of romantically criticizing a woman for saying no, this film realistically examines what happens to a woman who says yes too lightly – and for the wrong reasons. It is difficult for a modern audience to imagine a time when marriage was of such great importance that women had to make decisions based on having a reliable future rather than on sentiment. It is even harder for us to imagine ignoring both reason and heart for fear of waiting too long and ending up with neither.
What makes the film timelessly relatable is the push and pull between the friends competing for a woman’s sentiments. It is not the first time that Dan Stevens’ upside-down, boyish smile competes with Dominic Cooper’s dark, insinuating eyebrows (see “Sense and Sensibility”). However, unlike their previous encounter, which ends in a happy rectangle, the love triangle in “Summer in February” is truer to life.
In keeping with the bittersweetness of the story and the duel between the two men, the English countryside displays the duality of harsh cold and peaceful oasis. In almost every scene, there is one frame that is set up like a painting, mirroring the film’s focus on painters.
Smith himself adapted the novel, which sets the story apart from many others. It is what gives it its integrity and realism.
“Do you know who you are deep down?” Florence asks herself at one point during the film. “I wish I did,” she responds. This moment mimics the sentiment of the movie, which asks provocative questions that are sometimes beyond comprehensible answers.
For More Information:
What: “Summer in February”
Where: Cosford Cinema
When: Friday to Sunday; 6:45 p.m. Friday; 3:15 p.m. Saturday; 7:15 p.m. Saturday; 5:30 p.m. Sunday
For more information, check out a full schedule at cosfordcinema.com/showtime-calendar.