So You Don’t Have To, the pilot entry


by Geri

Here it is!!

For the first edition of So You Don’t Have To, I’ll be tackling a tale of love, beliefs, social classes, passion and deception that all took place one Sapphic summer. Beware, My Summer of Love is not much of a lesbian flick as it is a story about deception. Some parts of this review are seen through the eyes of a filmmaker wannabe, not of a lesbian.

My Summer of Love (2004), a film by Pawel Pawlikowski (that gave me a hard time to spell :))

We have asked for many things in our life. Either openly or in solitude, we long for things that do not belong to the norm of our day-to-day living, a break from this reality, something to save us from the clockwork-of-a-routine that is our life. Due to the law of averages, life is not always on the negative, and once in a while, we are given a taste, a touch or a moment. But we tend to ask for more than what we are given. The taste, we want to savor. The touch, we want to linger. The moment, we want to last for a lifetime. We want more, and coincidentally, more is the most dangerous thing to ask for. Good, because danger is my middle name!


My Summer of Love takes us with two girls to a British countryside one summer. Tamsin (Emily Blunt) is an upper-class, pampered, boarding school educated, city girl, who vacations in the countryside because she was suspended in school for being, in her own words, a bad influence on others. Mona (Nathalie Press), is a working class country girl who rides a motor-less bike, is bored with her life, shags married men in their cars and has an evangelical older brother as her only living relative. They meet that fateful summer afternoon, when Tamsin found Mona lying among the grass, and asked for her name. Opposites attract, and both found out that they have a lot to teach the other, finding a much-needed break from the emptiness and monotony of the life they were leading. They shared a passionate, intoxicating and exhilarating summer together, but not everything is what it seems, as all summers are bound to make way for autumn.

THE FULL SYNOPSIS Though I’d prefer that you don’t read this:
In Yorkshire, Tamsin and Mona meet for the first time when the latter, while on horseback, spotted the later, lying among the grass. She asks for her name, and invites Mona to drop by her house anytime during that summer. The two new acquaintances leave together, with Tamsin still on horseback and Mona on her engine-less scooter.

When Mona comes home, she finds her older brother, Phil, throwing out all the alcohol in the pub that was once ran by their mother. Phil went to prison, and in there, has undergone a spiritual transformation and became a born-again Christian. He is preparing for a rally of new Christian converts and closing down the pub is a part of it. Bored and disgusted with her brother, she meets up with her boy friend that is a married man, and they have sex inside his car in a parking lot, after which he breaks up with her. The next day, Mona comes to Tamsin’s house in order to avoid the rally organized by her brother. They began to bond and form a friendship while drinking and smoking all day while sharing the problems they face in their everyday lives. Tamsin opens up to Mona, telling her of the death of her older sister due to anorexia, as well as her father’s affair with his secretary.

The next day, Tamsin takes Mona to the place where her father and his secretary consummate their adulterous affair. They smash a window of his car and promptly run off. Tamsin invites Mona to spend the night in her mansion because her parents were not home and she agrees. The next day, Tamsin purchases an engine for Mona’s scooter and they ride it to a nearby river to swim. There, while clad in bikinis, Tamsin kisses Mona for the first time. They go back to Tamsin’s house where Mona tries some dresses. Later that day, she dances in one of the dresses she has tried outside in the mansions tennis court while Tamsin plays a song on her cello. As par of her impromptu choreography, Mona drops dead to the ground where Tamsin kisses her passionately. Later that night, the two girls have sex for the first time in Tamsin’s bed.
The day after, Phil finds the two girls sunbathing and invites them to the rally. He wants to erect a giant cross on the hill in their town in order to save it. Mona and Tamsin join the born-again Christians in their rally, where Phil prays for her sister believing that she is in some kind of turmoil. Tamsin behaves as if she was attracted to Phil during this encounter.

Later that Day, Mona takes Tamsin to the bar where her ex-boyfriend works. They shamed him and behaved intimately around each other, dancing suggestively, which disturbed the other bar patrons. This prompted the bouncer to take them out of the establishment by force. Later, they go back to the river where they shared their first kiss. There, they made an eternal pact to kill the other if the other attempts to leave the relationship.

The next morning, the girls leave the riverside to breakfast at Tamsin’s house. Phil arrives looking for Mona, and Tamsin attends to him, pretending to seduce him. Phil responds and tries to kiss her but Tamsin mocks and ridicules him. Losing his temper, Phil grabs Tamsin by the neck and hurts her. He proceeds to ground Mona and forbids her to see her girlfriend, locking her up in her room but Mona refuses to heed to his demands. The born-again Christians Phil studies the bible with witnesses this and he begins to kick them out of their former pub. Determined to start a new life with Tamsin, Mona leaves her brother.
Tamsin promised Mona that they’ll set off to another country together, but when Mona arrives at her house, she discovers that Tamsin is going back to her boarding school at the end of summer. Mona sees Tamsin’s sister, Sadie, alive and in the house. Sadie asks Mona to give her back the top she was wearing, the top that Tamsin gave her because Sadie was supposed to be deceased. Feeling cheated, Mona leaves to go to the riverside, which has been their special spot. Tamsin follows her and tells her that she should have realized that summer flings are just that: flings. Hurt at being Tamsin’s idea of summer fun, Mona asks Tamsin about her sister Sadie. Tamsin tells her that she’s a fantasist, that Mona shouldn’t have taken it that seriously. Mona slides into the water whilst fully clothed and Tamsin follows her. They kiss passionately, and it seems that Mona has forgiven Tamsin for all her theatrics, but in a split second, she grabs Tamsin by the neck and attempts to drown her, fulfilling her earlier oath by the river. After scaring Tamsin, she allows her to live. She leaves a shamed Tamsin as Mona walks of on her own with a smile on her face.

My Summer of Love, a film by Pawel Pawlikowski, is not a story about two teenage girls falling in love as I’ve said before. It’s not even a story about two teenage girls. It is a story about THE teenage girl, emphasize on the THE. The teenage girls in the film are stripped bare of all the trappings; the music, the fad, the peer pressure, until what were left are the emotions and feelings that define that age. The story is simple and straightforward. It does not hide behind poetic dialogue, complicated twists or symbolisms. What you see is what you get, and what you get are only the essentials. The film was adapted from a novel of the same title by Helen Cross; a novel that focused on the differences between England’s social background and included a miner’s strike.  These things were removed from the film, the character Phil was invented by Pawlikowski, and the result is a risky, yet timeless story, a story removed from this time but does not alienate the audience because it speaks truth for all generations who now are or once were fifteen.

a novel by Helen Cross

a novel by Helen Cross

You may say, Geri, I’m no Tamsin or I’m not a doormat like Mona, but trust me, we all were or are, in some way. We just react differently, because people react differently to things; that’s what makes us humans. We might have outgrown these feelings, or otherwise covered them up in make-up and heels, but there’s no denying that when we were fifteen, we wore these feelings shamelessly (because there’s nothing to be ashamed about them) on our sleeves, and also shamelessly want something for them in return. Something more, which is yup, the most dangerous thing to want. Danger is not equal to bad, for bad is something absolute. Danger is equal to risk, which not all of us are willing to take and which won’t always be worth the things we give up for it.

The movie is great; I would even go as far as to say that it is my favorite. The way the story unfolds is perfect; it does not push the plot but lets the story flow in a fluid motion. The viewers learn of Tamsin’s deception about the same time as Mona does, that way, it puts the audience in the same dimension as the characters. The locations and cinematography are so good; it’s like watching a moving painting, something I can only say for Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams. One does not only see the film, you feel it, and you smell it. The texture grows on you and envelops you in a mist. The scent wafts around your nose and sticks to your skin, for the film won’t allow you to forget as soon as you take your next shower. Few films can excite all of your senses.

The actresses are brilliant, that’s hands-down. Emily Blunt, my favorite actress since I saw her in the Devil wears Prada, seems like a veteran yet this was only her second film. She forms a great chemistry with Nathalie Press, a breakthrough in her own right. Their speech and movements, down to the really small eyebrow nods, are just exactly as the scene asks for.

There is one thing we can deduce from the title, that it is love found one summer, and summers aren’t forever. Much like high school is. One thing is sure, it will last as long as none of us are willing to give it up. By making what we think (emphasize on the WE) are the right choices, maybe it won’t even end. Maybe it will only grow into something more, something that will last us a lifetime. Who knows, only time can tell.

THE VERDICT: Do watch it. It’s a really great movie. It got a fresh 92% at rotten tomatoes, who am I to contend the gods? Right, the film maker wannabe.

You can stream the movie here. Scroll down and click the parts, not the entire movie.

Also, visit the amazing official flash site of the movie.

THIS POST IS EDITED. I can’t believe I forgot. This movie is Rated R for sexuality, drinking, smoking, drugs and rock and roll! Anyway, matatalino naman tayong lahat diba.


4 responses »

  1. i’ve just watched the movie. i love the plot and the setting. the only thing that bothers me is their smoking habit. it’s clever, i didnt know what to expect except that i thought it had bloodshed scene as a result of tam’s deception since i viewed its trailer before watching. i didn’t enjoy the moments where romance was starting to build up. not even their love affair in general for i already had in mind the very frustrating ending, which is totally different form and worse than what i saw. lol! emotion is what makes us fall but if we take its positive side it will surely make us better 😉

  2. hello! Umattend ako ng isang seminar tungkol sa International Women’s Month at na-ifeature yung Sobre Rojo…na-curious ako sa Filipino adaptation ng Fingersmith…I myself, indulges in lesbian-themed books, movies and documentaries. I’m opting to check your blog entries. For now, i did get myself a copy of Sobre Rojo for tonight’s “pampalubag-loob” from finishing my thesis. thanks 🙂

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