This stunningly beautiful film swept me off my feet with the Cornish set tale of a love triangle between the artist Alfred Munnings aka AJ, (Dominic Cooper), his best pal Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey) and the gorgeous muse/artist Florence Carter-Wood (Emily Browning). Based on the novel by Jonathan Smith and directed by Christopher Menaul, Summer in February is a glimpse back in time to the real events 100 years ago among the bohemian artists.
Escaping a suitor set up by her conservative father, Florence arrives in Lamorna to stay with her brother Joey and study painting. The many artists in the area live and work enjoying a freedom, that for many in 1913 was only a dream. As AJ says 'we say and do what we like'. He is the celebrated genius among them, known for his realistic paintings of horses. Widely regarded as one of Britains finest painters, AJ was very anti-modernist, preferring to paint the natural sights of Cornwall, in particular horses. Despite his working class origins, he ended up president of the Royal Academy of Art, and was awarded a Knighthood. Although set so long ago, the story of young love, friendship and jealousy comes alive with the wonderful performances.
Dominic Cooper is a natural as the cocky, handsome AJ, used to being the star and getting what he wants. Dan Stevens is perfectly cast as the best friend, ever the perfect gentleman. The real surprise though is the wonderful Emily Browning, I was stunned when I found out she is from Melbourne, her English rose beauty and perfect posh accent had me thinking she was British. You may of seen her in the film Sleeping Beauty, but this was the first film I have seen of hers.
Emotions run high in this story of love and loyalty, and a twist at the end surprises. Costume dramas are something I think that the English do best, and this film is visually stunning, albeit a bit more relaxed as there are no corsets among this set - given that they were the equivalent of today's Hoxton hipsters. The Cornish tourism board must be very pleased with panoramic vistas of cliff tops and beaches.
The UK release date is the 14th June from Metrodome.