Amazingly bland and unappealing.

Summer in February is a bio-pic based on real people–just the sort of story I usually like. The retired history teacher in me likes learning about actual events and characters. However, as much as I wanted to like the film, I found it very ponderous and unappealing.

The film is set just before the First World War. It begins with a small community of bohemian artists who have made the Cornish coast of England their home. Here, they seem happy and productive. However, when a newcomer arrives, things begin to take a turn towards the dark side. Florence Carter Wood (Emily Browning) is a rich young lady who wants to study from other artists and she’s readily accepted by this group. One guy is infatuated with her but he unfortunately keeps this to himself. In the meantime, another artist, A.J. Munnings (Dominic Cooper) falls for her and asks her to marry him.

Summer in February
Directed by
Christopher Menaul
Dominic Cooper, Emily Browning, Dan Stevens
Release Date
17 January 2014
Martin’s Grade: D+

The fact that she said she would marry Munnings’ is odd, at least in the film, because there isn’t much build-up to this–they meet, spend a bit of time together and suddenly they marry. I have no idea if their courtship was like this in real life, but I do know that their marriage was NOT a marriage made in Heaven! Again, this was a bit confusing, as you see Wood marry him willingly–but on their honeymoon, she tried to kill herself. The film seems to say that she knew he was sleeping around but still married him and then tried to take her own life. While this made little sense and the film tried to paint her as a sad but understandable woman, I assume she was mentally ill–though the film seemed to de-emphasize this. Again, this did seem a bit confusing as healthy and normal folk DON’T marry people who they dislike and don’t try suicide on their honeymoon! This just isn’t rational and I was looking for some possible explanation–and without mental illness, it left me confused–especially since you really aren’t sure if Munnings actually did anything wrong and the film showed him trying, in vain, to make the marriage work–at least at first. What’s next for the happy couple? See the film if you’d like to know.

When I went on the internet to learn more about Munnings and Wood, there wasn’t a lot of information about their marriage. Munnings later went on to be one of Britain’s most celebrated artists–that was easy to find. But, about Wood, there is very little information. So, how close this is to the true story, I have no idea. After seeing the film, however, I’m going to say something that usually violates what I want in biopics–I wish the story had been VERY different even if the film became more fictional than not! This is because I didn’t like the characters–they all seemed brooding, dull and hard to relate to or care about in any way. This does make selling the film problematic–and when the film was recently released, it was a box office failure. Now, it’s just been released to DVD–having debuted on Netflix this week. Considering how ponderous the film is at times and how contradictory the characters act, however, I just cannot recommend it. Now I am not saying it’s all bad–the cinematography was lovely and the acting was good–but without likable characters (or at least ones you can understand) and a sluggish pace, it’s really not a film that most folks would or could enjoy.

By the way, if you do watch the film, be aware that there is a fair amount of full frontal nudity in the first portion of the movie. It didn’t seem gratuitous or inappropriate, as these artists painted nudes and, like true bohemians, had a different moral compass than the typical Brit of the day.

by Martin Hafer