Starring: Dominic Cooper, Emily Browning, Dan Stevens
Genre: Drama/Romance/Downton Abbey-esque (according to the marketing blurb)
Set at the beginning of the 20th century at the Newlyn School for Artists in Cornwall, England. The Lamorna group featured future celebrated artists, and when new student Florence Carter-Wood (Browning) joins, she immediately catches the eye of the troubled but celebrated artist Alfred Munnings (Cooper). As their turbulent relationship develops, a complex love triangle develops as Florence and Alfred’s best friend, good natured local army officer Gilbert Evans (Stevens), find it increasingly difficult to ignore their mutual attraction.
Dan Stevens? He is in this? He was in Downton Abbey wasn’t he? That was popular; let’s make those that watch that want to watch this! Oh the cynical world of film marketing! Unfortunately Dan Stevens is indeed not the only Downton Abbey similarity, as there is definitely an inoffensive, middle of the road Sunday evening TV drama feel about the entire clunky and flat narrative of Summer in February.
Despite the potential for this to be a powerful story, it is based on a true story after all, the whole thing clunks along slowly and at times painfully. It almost seems that all involved are too afraid to pose too many questions about some potentially powerful themes, making it hard to get involved or indeed care too much for the characters when we really should. This is a shame as the three leads all give solid turns; only just saving what is quite frankly an extremely basic and flat script. Yes the slightly ponderous title is in the script, and yes when said it is a little cringe worthy.
Summer in February is just about watchable, with the beautiful Cornish coast providing an ideal and cinematic setting. Indeed, director Christopher Menaul has an eye for a beautiful shot and does manage to create a good atmosphere. It is just a shame the lacklustre script means that it is way harder to get into the story or care about the characters than it should be. There are motivations behind characters actions that seem more like convenient plot devices than genuine moments of personal conflict, and this is a waste. Once it is over it may not feel like a waste of time, and it is certainly not testing, but will soon be forgotten apart from maybe influencing your decision for where to go for your next British holiday.