A dreamy tale of art and love
Film Review: Summer in February (15A, general release, 100 minutes) 2 STARS
Director: Christopher Menaul Stars: Dominic Cooper, Emily Browning, Dan Stevens, Hattie Morahan
Plodding and pleasant and entirely without cinematic merit, Summer in February is adapted by Jonathan Smith from his own historical novel and based on a true story.
Australian actress Emily Browning stars as Florence Carter-Wood, a dreamy young woman who moves to Cornwall on the eve of the First World War to dedicate herself to painting.
Talented but shy, she's thrilled when she enters the orbit of Alfred Munnings (Dominic Cooper), a renowned painter whose arrogance is almost matched by his ability.
When Munnings asks Florence to sit for him, it quickly becomes obvious that he has ulterior motives, but his plans to seduce her are initially thwarted when a romantic rival appears.
Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens) is a stiff but utterly decent army officer who falls head over heels with Florence as soon as he lays eyes on her.
She's charmed by his shy advances, but Gilbert seems dull by comparison with the bombastic and charismatic Munnings, and Florence eventually succumbs to the painter's charms and marries him. It's a decision that she, he and her disappointed suitor will all have cause to regret, and Florence soon finds herself drowning in Munnings' chaotic and monomaniacal life.
Summer in February does a decent job of evoking the giddy hedonism of pre-war Bohemianism, and Cooper is pretty good as the rakish and self-important Munnings. Browning looks a bit like one of the Corrs, and was born to play doomed period heroines.
And, as he's proved in Downton Abbey, Stevens can play tongue-tied toffs in his sleep.
All do well in this watchable but absolutely unremarkable drama, which feels like a stretched out TV mini-series. Indeed it should have been a TV drama: director Christopher Menaul has worked mainly on the small screen, and Summer in February is made with dull precision and little or no visual imagination.