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Cornish-filmed movie of artist Alfred Munnings gets London premiere

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: June 10, 2013

By Simon Parker

  • Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens as Gilbert Evans with Emily Browning as Florence Carter-Wood in Summer in February

  • Producers Pippa Cross and Jeremy Cowdrey, left, with Mia Austen (Dolly) and Max Deacon (Joey Carter-Wood) and author and screenplay writer Jonathan Smith at the Penzance premiere

  • The wonderful scenery of Lamorna Cove, Cornwall, was a backdrop to the artists who worked there and now to the film of their story

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Cinemagoers in Mayfair will be given a taste of Cornish life this evening when a new film charting the passionate love story of celebrated artist Alfred Munnings receives its London premiere.

Audiences in Cornwall have already had a chance to see Summer In February at three preview screenings ahead of its national release. And the moving story, set in the rural valley of Lamorna, won praise from those attending the first showing in Penzance's Savoy cinema last week.

Book publisher Heather Corbett, from St Agnes, said: "It is beautifully shot and is directed very sympathetically, without being sentimental. The acting is excellent, with a brilliant performance by Dominic Cooper as the obsessed Munnings. The story itself is played out with care and, though a simple tale, my interest never flagged – and Cornwall looked pretty wonderful as well."

Summer In February is based on a novel by Jonathan Smith and stars Dominic Cooper as Munnings, Emily Browning as his first wife Florence Carter-Wood and Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens as her lover, Gilbert Evans. Florence met the charismatic artist when she moved to Newlyn to study at Stanhope Forbes's school of painting. The couple wed in 1912, but their marriage proved disastrous, with Florence seeking solace in the company of Gilbert Evans, Lamorna Valley's land agent.

Directed by Christopher Menaul, the story is set in the years running up to the First World War and is based on Gilbert Evans' own diaries.

Katie Herbert, who curated an exhibition that focused on the work of Lamorna artists at Penlee House in Penzance to coincide with the release of the film, also attended the sell-out premiere in the town. "With a wholly local audience, the producers were perhaps facing their toughest critics," she said.

"But the overall setting and feel of the film really did justice to the dramatic landscape that has drawn artists to this part of the world and Jonathan Smith's adaptation of his own novel was remarkably true to the original story and portrayed it with intensity and sensitivity.

"The main characters were really brought to life by the excellent choice of actors, who had obviously researched their roles with integrity, getting a feel for their characters and even learning just how to hold the paintbrush. It will surely help cement the Lamorna artists' place in artistic history."

Sir Alfred Munnings, who died in 1959, was a contemporary of Laura and Harold Knight, Frank Gascoigne Heath, Dod Procter and Geoffrey Garnier. Best known for his equestrian and First World War paintings, he lived and worked in West Cornwall for several years. Fiercely anti-Modernist, he was elected president of the Royal Academy of Art in 1944, where he disgraced himself in an inebriated speech when he condemned everyone from Matisse and Cezanne to Picasso.

Summer In February goes on general release on June 14.

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