This is such a Sunday afternoon movie. Lying on your granny’s carpet listening to her tell you what everyone on screen died of.
Summer Light reminds me of nothing so much as an episode of Frasier. There’s everyone chasing each other, a ludicrous and precarious party, and disaster always looming. While ostensibly a romantic drama, it has enough helpings of comic relief that it’s not far off.
It is about Michele, a beautiful and innocent young woman who comes to meet her lover in a hillside bed and breakfast in Provence. There she learns lessons in love that will leave her older and more cautious.
Obvious cad, and full-on no-righty, Patrice catches sight of her, and marks her for his next conquest. His last one is Cricri, who runs the hotel, but he has since grown bored with her.
Cricri is half mad with jealousy, knowing full well that Patrice no longer cares for her, and has his eye on the younger woman, but he gaslights her and manipulates her until she is unsure where to focus her rage. She alone knows what Patrice is capable of though. She covered for him when he murdered his wife, believing him to have done it for love of her. She also nursed him when he was mentally unwell after the death. Now he is back on his feet, he is done with her.
Patrice’s seduction doesn’t go as planned though. Michele is devoted to her lover Roland, who she seems to have met during a creative manic streak, and is now getting to know on his way down, into despair and alcoholism. Working in the theatre and being three sheets to the wind, Roland is ostentatiously melodramatic, playing the tortured artist. But sincerely he begs Michele to leave him, knowing he will pull her down in his spiral of self-destruction too.
The other innocent in this is Julien. He works on the nearby dam, and only comes across this shower of upper-class shambles by stopping by the hotel on his way to work one night, and accidentally walking into Michele’s room. In the darkness, she kisses him passionately, believing him to be Roland. From the first kiss, Julien falls in love with her.
The film follows Michele as Patrice draws her ever closer in a web of falsehood and ill-intent. He encourages Roland’s drinking, leaving Michele despondent and disillusioned with love. All the while Cricri tries to warn Michele and regain Patrice’s affection, a dual purpose which leaves her with no credibility. And what will Patrice do when finds the lowly Julien is a rival?
All this culminates on the night of the masquerade ball at Patrice’s mansion. Will Michele be seduced by his machinations? Will the fair Julien win her love? Will she bring herself to leave the drunken Roland? And what will happen when Cricri makes clear just what Patrice is capable of to get what he wants?