Set around the time of the First World War in the Cornish artists’ retreat of Lamorna, Christopher Menaul’s Summer in February is a bit of bleak offering. Although featuring the now-notorious Munnings, the plot is in fact centred on aspiring artist Florence Carter-Wood (Emily Browning), who has left her overbearing father in London and joined a cast of bohemians and booze-hounds on the Cornish coast. On her arrival at Lamorna, Florence is faced with two prospective partners. One is Alfred Munnings (Dominic Cooper) who disrupts parties to lean against pianos and recite the work of Edgar Allen Poe whilst scrutinizing the middle distance. The other is Captain Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens) who enjoys hunting and fishing and gazing longingly across crowded rooms. Who does Florence choose? Who do you think? From there on in, things become steadily more desolate as Florence’s depressive nature comes into the fray as well.The problem with Summer in February is that none of the characters is particularly likeable. They consistently make choices that are clearly going to be disastrous, and then spend the remainder of the film regretting them. It is this lack of empathy for any facet of the doomed triptych that, unfortunately, makes the whole ordeal a bit boring to witness. If the story had been fictitious rather factual then perhaps more could have been done to liven things up. As it is, the film details a predictable, albeit tragic, conversion of three people, one of whom just happened to become a prominent figure in the art world.
That being said, despite the dreary affair of the plot, the film is worth looking at, actually looking at; the scenery of vast expanses of sandy beaches, rain-slashed cliffs and secretive nooks in the rocky outcrops does provide a starkly beautiful backdrop. And the performances behind the tormented trio are not at fault either; it is the writing rather than the acting that leaves each character noticeably two-dimensional.Summer in February comes across as a slightly half-hearted attempt at a story that probably didn’t need to be told, and, while it is something impressive to look at (in a storm-soaked hillside kind of way) it isn’t really much else.