The success of ITV’s Downton Abbey can be attributed as a main pushing factor for many pieces of period piece drama of late, this being one of them. The film is a true story and is based on the book by Jonathan Smith. First and foremost many will already have their minds made up about seeing this film and those who want to will find a rewarding film. Summer in February is a love story in its most simple form, recalling the modes and conventions of many you have seen before from Catherine Cookson to Julian Fellowes.
The plot is very akin to the TV drama audience, offering some predictable turns, albeit moments of unexpected intensity. This is as beautifully costumed and shot, as one would expect, taking in the crashing seas, rocky shores and close-knit communities with equal grace. The music also grows on you, starting a bit subdued and unnoticeable but Ben Foskett’s score really becomes impactful by the end. The right audience will be swept away by the look and sound of this film, as many are with drama of this type. The film’s biggest actual skirmish is its wrangling of the material into a rhythmic pace because, whilst Summer in February is never anywhere near a bad film, it has a few pacing issues and takes some expected turns.
There clearly are a lot of aspects to fit into 100 minutes and certain things feel skimmed over. For instance, the marriage between two key characters feels spontaneous, as does a first suicide attempt and the final narrative family shock feels like it has been inserted in last minute too. That said, Christopher Menaul knows the right look of his film and gives the material some justice in delivery, even if struggling to keep all the aspects engaging and dramatic. Some characters feel very much like dressing but this is a fine showcase for the central trio regardless.
Dominic Cooper as real life (and now infamous) Munnings is very good, harnessing an initial likability and then a flawed and damningly possessive mindset. Dan Stevens in many ways plays his part on Downton Abbey but is still an utterly charming and likable presence. Emily Browning also handles duties well as the token suffering heroine that will be more than familiar to all lovers of poetry, literature and this kind of drama. Summer in February is not an utterly spellbinding tale but it is not too far off and the audience ready to see it will likely be wooed justly by this charming adaptation.