|'For much of the tale the love triangle manifests itself in longing looks, stolen moments on the beach and the occasional cross word at breakfast. It's a very English disagreement'|
Before Dan Stevens moved into the business of killing people with his steely blue eyes, he was rather cast with his Downton Abbey type as somewhat foppish honest Joe, Gilbert Evans in Christopher Menaul's period tale of Cornish artists behaving badly, Summer In February.
The meaningless title and Steven's doe eyes hint at what lies within here. This is an aimless stroll along Cornish clifftops, perfectly pleasant in its own right, but lacking the drama required to take us out of Julian Fellowes country and into something more exciting. Menaul's film depicts, primarily, the love triangle between Gilbert, Edwardian artist AJ Munnings (Dominic Cooper) and the object of their affections Florence Carter Wood (Emily Browning), but does so as if it is relating a gentle snooze of a Sunday afternoon.
For much of the tale the love triangle manifests itself in longing looks, stolen moments on the beach and the occasional cross word at breakfast. It's a very English disagreement and Menaul feels disinterested in pushing anything further. The 15 certificate feels mainly gained thanks to Browning undressing in front of a mirror, apparently comparing herself to the voluptuous Dolly (Mia Austen), who models for the band of artists camped on the Cornish coast. If that was the route Menaul wanted to take, into a consideration of self-reflection vs artistic reflection then there might have been something here but, as it is, in isolation, it feels like an artificial attempt to give the film a 'hard' edge.
Meanwhile, exceedingly slowly, the film does build to a conclusion that could have had tragedy, if only the director and writer Jonathan Smith could have spent the time considering it in a more measured way. As it is, it feels at least partially unearned, artificial and unloved, leaving a passingly pleasant film with a slightly difficult to swallow final third.