It’s particularly disappointing to watch a film “based on a true story,” an interesting one at that, and suspect that what’s on the screen must pale in comparison to what really happened.
That nagging frustration overshadows Summer in February, a ceaselessly bland take on the famed Lamorna artists’ colony in Cornwall, circa 1911.
The problems began in casting: As a love-torn trio, Dominic Cooper, Emily Browning, and Downton Abbey‘s Dan Stevens muster about as much charisma between them as that of the dour English countryside their characters inhabit. Florence Carter-Wood (Browning), an aspiring painter, arrives at the colony and is immediately introduced to fellow painter and show-off Alfred Munnings (Cooper) and his best friend, Captain Gilbert Evans (Stevens), an aw-shucks, rosy-cheeked do-gooder.
To the surprise of no one, Florence fancies Gilbert’s sweetness but instead marries Alfred, establishing a moral quandary that is both uninspired and transparent; Alfred’s established career is the clear draw. The characters are broadly defined and tedious, which makes sitting through the film’s 100 minutes something of a chore.
When incident does occur, director Christopher Menaul seems unprepared to deal with it, resorting to distractingly incongruous shaky-cam techniques during moments of barely memorable drama. Stevens’s performance as an impassioned love interest is particularly ineffectual, but, sadly, that’s not even the film’s biggest drawback. Menaul presents a watered-down version of what was undoubtedly an exciting time.