By Victoria Lindrea
Polish-born director Pawel Pawlikowski is best known for his Bafta-winning film Last Resort. His latest movie, My Summer of Love, opens in the UK on Friday.
The film won best new British film at the Edinburgh Film Festival
My Summer of Love explores the unlikely friendship that evolves between two 16-year-old girls who live in the same Yorkshire village, but come from very different backgrounds.
Mona, played by Natalie Press, lives above the local pub with her brother, an ex-convict who has "found" God.
Tamsin (Emily Blunt) is the spoiled rich daughter of absentee parents, home from boarding school and left to her own devices in the family mansion.
The pair, isolated and alone, are drawn to one another, fascinated by their differences.
An intense relationship ensues, where fantasy and reality collide as the girls explore themselves and their world.
The film won the best new British film award at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival, and Focus Features - the company behind Sofia Coppola's Oscar-winning Lost in Translation - pounced on distribution rights.
But it is the chemistry between Mr Pawlikowski's two leading ladies, neither big names, that gives the film its emotional weight.
"I've made a couple of other films with relative unknowns and looking for actors is part of the process of thinking about the film," says Mr Pawlikowski.
"For a while, I thought we would get a proper Yorkshire girl to play Mona... but it was very difficult to find somebody who could handle a range of emotions, who was both complex and unpredictable.
"I was looking for something that was both familiar and unfamiliar. A lot of the girls that we looked at had familiar attitudes, largely shaped by TV and by the media.
"I was looking for someone who was conflicted in some way."
His eventual choice to play Mona was 23-year-old Press, from Hertfordshire. Combining teenage defiance with emotional naivety, her mesmerising performance is crucial to the film's success.
"I was attracted to the character of Mona, and the relationship between the two girls. Not just the passion, but also the intellectual and cultural games that one plays with the other."
Mr Pawlikowski pulled out of Sylvia to make My Summer of Love
"It was an interesting multi-layered relationship that involved all levels of the human soul," says Mr Pawlikowski, who adapted the original novel by Helen Cross.
"That was the main thing that I liked in the book, because otherwise the book - set in the 80s during the miners' strike - was very different."
With the backing of BBC Films, Mr Pawlikowski set about reworking the novel, but the script remained loose enough to allow for cast input and improvisation on set.
"I knew there was a beginning, middle and an end, dramatically speaking. But a lot of the textural scenes were just sketched in," explains the director.
"I've made films this way before. When you have three strong characters, good turning points and a possible ending, then you are in pretty safe territory."
The film re-teams Mr Pawlikowski with Last Resort star Paddy Considine, who plays Mona's born again brother Phil.
"I like working with him," says Mr Pawlikowski. "There is so much more in him that hasn't been tapped yet - he's not the sort of actor who knows his wares, he's intuitive.
Paddy Considine is currently starring in Dead Man's Shoes
"There's a lot of interesting stuff in him that you can bring out. "
While My Summer of Love, with its lush, sunlit cinematography, has a very different feel from Last Resort, the director claims they are not so different.
"Last Resort was construed as a social document, an indictment of the asylum system - that's how a lot of people saw it.
"I was much more interested in what was going on between the heroine and her little boy than explaining the plight of refugees.
"It was about a woman, like Mona, looking for something... love as a solution to her life."
Mr Pawlikowski adds: "I don't want to make films about people on the margins of life, that's too easy. It's like tearing off coupons, a kind of ready-made drama.
"If you want a realistic film about girls, then there is an American film called Thirteen, but I'm an escapist. I just want to immortalise a certain type of humanity that's disappearing."