As Thirteen and Heavenly Creatures proved, teenage girls can be a right handful. The same holds true in My Summer Of Love, a startling rite-of-passage drama from Polish-born writer-helmer Pawel Pawlikowski. Anchored by remarkable debut performances from British newcomers Nathalie Press and Emily Blunt and excellent support from the ever dependable Paddy Considine, this tale of lesbian lust and born-again Christianity casts an intense and seductive spell that's hard to classify, and even harder to resist.
Yorkshire lass Mona (Press) lives above a pub with her older brother Phil (Considine), a bad lad turned Christian evangelist determined to banish evil from their quiet village. With little to do but ride her engine-less moped across the moors and bed her married boyfriend (Dean Andrews), Mona is instantly captivated by Tamsin (Blunt), the spoilt daughter of a wealthy local family. Drunken revels and nude skinny-dips soon turn to more intimate moments, much to the dismay of Phil and his God-fearing followers.
"THE PICTURE BELONGS TO ITS YOUTHFUL LEADS"
Last Resort, Pawlikowski's previous feature, centred on the trials and tribulations of a young Russian mother seeking asylum in Britain. The stakes aren't really as high this time around, but that doesn't make his heroines' passion or Phil's spiritual battle any less affecting. And while his story belongs to the social-realist school of homegrown filmmaking, the emphasis on religion - typified by a beautiful sequence showing Phil and his congregation erecting a giant cross on a hill overlooking the village - brings a transcendental flavour to the material that's as intoxicating as it is unexpected.
Electropop outfit Goldfrapp supply a coolly shimmering soundtrack but in the end, Pawlikowski's picture belongs to its youthful leads: Press' earthy naturalism and raw emotion finds an ideal complement in Blunt's haughtily aristocratic reserve.
My Summer Of Love is out now in London's West End, and the rest of the country from Friday 5th November 2004.