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 among 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 showoff 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 an 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' 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.
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