In recent months, I’ve made no secret of my disdain for Dan Stevens and the way he left Downton (not to mention the way he continues to stick his foot in it). But I’ll let y’all in on a little secret: I was still really looking forward to Summer in February. (Also, I adore Dominic Cooper.)
After receiving it bundled with a few other books-as-gifts and the kindle I got for Christmas, I read Summer in February in late December/early January (after the Christmas Special aired, after I soured on Stovens) and I really enjoyed it. The love story played out in a really believable way, which was doubly important in this case since the book is based on actual events.
Gilbert is reserved and almost downright cowardly. He and the deeply depressed Florence are dragged along in AJ’s wake and neither one of them ever takes any real agency in their love for the other until Florence is married and they begin their affair. Gilbert’s meekness and inaction prior to the onset of the affair make it that much more shocking. Indulging in the affair after doing almost nothing explicit in terms of his feelings for Florence shows just how intense his feelings for her are—everything about him, who he is at the core, is tossed out the window just to be with her. Powerful stuff.
I have to say though, the trailer really disappointed me—and not just because I feel a little like I’m watching Matthew cheat on Mary. I get the impression that in translating the novel to film they’ve lost the subtlety that made the book such a great read. Granted, film is a different medium and to a certain extent things have to be made more blatant—I get that, I do—but it feels like they ramped the melodrama up to 11 when 5 would have done. Gilbert banging on the table and yelling at AJ? No. A major part of the entire tragedy of the book is that there is no confrontation like this between AJ and Gilbert. Gilbert carries on the affair with Florence, yes, but in many ways he values his relationship with AJ more—they never come to blows, they never yell at each other. AJ & Gilbert don’t fight over Florence, which makes her all the more tragic, really. She’s objectified by both men, just in different ways. AJ sees her as his model-muse, Gilbert’s got her on much too high of a pedestal.
I’ll probably still see the film, but my hopes for a faithful adaption of a subdued story that ends with a great shock are pretty much dashed. :-(
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