The Wrong Man
No doubt choosing the wrong person to marry can have dire consequences, especially if the right one was about to propose. Summer in February, a dreary romantic melodrama based on a true story, shows what dreadful things happened to Florence Carter-Wood, who wed artist A.J. Munnings instead of his friend Gilbert Evans. Set in the early 1900s, the film follows this young woman as she joins a bohemian artists’ colony in Cornwall in hopes of becoming a better painter. Although filled with gorgeous scenes along the Cornish coast, the movie lacks the dynamic chemistry between lovers that a romance-themed movie like this should have. It takes more than beautiful scenery, handsome leading men, and an unusual female lead to win over discerning fans of this genre. I’m an incurable romantic -- and had hoped for so much more from Summer in February. Of course, happy endings are not always necessary. Romeo and Juliet proves that point. But the chemistry must be there.
We can tell almost immediately that Munnings (Dominic Cooper) will be trouble for Florence (Emily Browning). He’s arrogant, aggressive and opinionated. However, Florence admires his paintings and is pleased when she attracts his attention. It’s not long until he becomes her unconventional tutor. She also agrees to model for one of his paintings. That decision backfires on her when the work is displayed alongside his paintings of other women. (SPOILER ALERT) Florence does say “Yes” to his marriage proposal, but her feelings toward Munnings begin to deteriorate -- and she even tries to commit suicide during the wedding reception.
If only Florence hadn’t agreed to marry Munnings so quickly! The other man in her life, Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens), almost proposes to her but gets interrupted by Munnings, who sweeps her away for a dance. Evans is gentlemanly, polite and caring. But he’s probably too much like Florence’s father, and she’s been trying to escape his parental clutches. Also, Munnings is much more exciting than Evans. But after Florence’s suicide attempt, she turns to Evans more and more. Finally, a pregnancy and Evans’ military service bring everything crashing down on the illicit lovers. How will Florence handle the stress?
All three actors are interesting to watch in their key roles here. Carter-Wood (Sucker Punch) is at her best when projecting Florence’s suffering; Cooper (Mamma Mia!) excels in scenes emphasizing Munnings’ outspoken tirades; and Stevens (Downton Abbey) makes us sympathize with Evans’ losses. Unfortunately, the connections among these characters fail to register in a meaningful way. Perhaps director Christopher Menaul (The Passion of Ayn Rand) or screenwriter Jonathan Smith (who adapted his own book) may be more at fault than the actors. And yet, the important chemistry element mentioned earlier has to be considered. It’s hard to describe, but there's something about a certain spark that’s ignited when two people look into each other’s eyes -- for example, like Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in The Fountain, or Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in Romeo and Juliet, or Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford in Gilda, or Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge!
Still, Andrew Dunn’s (Lee Daniels’ The Butler) cinematography definitely impressed me. I love the scenes of waves crashing against the massive rocks and shore as well as shots of stunning horses galloping along the sandy coast! Wish I could teleport myself there to enjoy that awesome scenery for real.
(Released by Tribeca Film; not rated by MPAA.)
For more information about Summer in February, go to the Rotten Tomatoes or Internet Movie Data Base website.