Summer Lovers (1982) is writer-director Randal Kleiser’s follow-up to 1980’s The Blue Lagoon, another meditation on sun, sea, youth, and sex. The setting is the idyllic, if tourist-ridden, Greek island of Santorini, where a young American couple, Michael (Peter Gallagher) and Cathy (Daryl Hannah), encounter an attractive French archaeologist (Valérie Quennessen). Sparks and curiosity fly, and before long, the duo has become a ménage à trois. Featuring a lovely score by Basil Poledouris.
The term "coming of age" gets applied to a number of stories and films. Usually, it's being applied to a story about a young boy or girl who in some way is forced to grow up and face a hard situation before they're mature enough or emotionally ready. An offshoot of this sort of storyline is the "sexual awakening" story. This story usually features a young man or young woman who encounters their first sexual experience. Love usually doesn't enter the picture - or if it does, it brings about disaster. 'Summer Lovers,' directed by Randal Kleiser and starring Peter Gallagher, Daryl Hannah, and Valérie Quennessen is a mix of the coming of age and sexual awakening stories that plays with the notions of love and monogamy.
The Greek island of Santorini is an absolute paradise. The sun is bright and warm through the day and the nights are cool and comfortable. Beautiful white sandy beaches line the edges of the island making it a picturesque location for tourists to sunbathe. Being Europe, most of the abundant tourists that have flocked to the island for the summer don't mind enjoying the sun in various stages of undress. American tourists Michael (Peter Gallagher) and his long-term girlfriend Cathy (Daryl Hannah) have decided this island is the perfect place to rest up after college and chart the course for the rest of their lives together.
Hardly a prude, Cathy still isn't quite comfortable being openly nude, while Michael reassures her it's completely normal. Still with all of the beautiful bodies about, it isn't long before Michael starts to notice the scenery. At first he isn't interested in the other women around him, that is until he meets Lina (Valérie Quennessen). At the first sight of Lina, Michael attempts to play things cool by not trying to make direct eye contact - but he can't help himself. The same thing happens again on their second meeting and it isn't until their third chance encounter that Michael even works up the nerve to talk to her. What started out as a simple conversation quickly turns into a passionate affair.
Ever the honest man, Michael can't keep what he's done a secret from Cathy. Initially enraged, Cathy comes to understand Michael and his attraction to Lina. After the two women meet face to face, Cathy begins to realize her own feelings for the woman she should hate. As Michael, Cathy, and Lina begin to understand they have more in common than they thought, they become a trio of good friends. Even as friends, however, their mutual desires for each other can't be abated and what started out as "just friends" turns into something far deeper and physical for the three of them. As their passions take over, all three will at one point have to understand the emotional responsibility that comes when three people are in love with each other.
'Summer Lovers' is one of those movies that feels like you should like it more than you do. As complicated as a ménage á trois relationship should be - the dynamics of the one Michael, Lina, and Cathy share is decidedly uncomplicated. Sure, there were some rough edges that needed to be sanded down at the beginning, but once the three realize their mutual attraction things are relatively smooth sailing. Even when there is a third act love twist for Lina, that little complication amounts to being little more than a hiccup. I'll give Peter Gallagher, Daryl Hannah, and Valérie Quennessen all due credit for playing their roles well enough - they just don't have much material to work with so that we feel anything for them beyond the cursory voyeuristic curiosities. These are young people discovering something new about themselves only what they discover really isn't all that dramatic.
As one watches this movie, it isn't much of a surprise that this film was written and directed by Randal Kleiser, the director behind 'The Blue Lagoon.' Both films cover similar sexual awakening territory so it becomes somewhat difficult not to compare the two films. Where 'The Blue Lagoon' had a youthful innocence to it thanks to its young stars, 'Summer Lovers' doesn't have that innocence. Sure, the three people involved are relatively new to this sort of relationship arrangement, but they're hardly innocent. This isn't a movie that has that sort of sense of discovery about themselves. Cathy has a little bit of an arc like that, but it doesn't take her long to shed that piece of her and then there isn't really a moment in the movie where any of them stop to have a moment's pause for regret of any kind.
I'll tip my hat to Kleiser and the cast of 'Summer Lovers' for actually playing the material straight and earnestly. Given the plot and the exotic location, this movie could have quickly become something cheap and tawdry. Thankfully 'Summer Lovers' doesn't become a late night cable movie, but at the same time, there isn't a whole lot of passion to things. While the cast has chemistry, there is a feeling of detachment that keeps the film from completely resonating as it possibly could have. It's difficult to put my finger on what exactly is holding this film back, but if just feels like one piece of the puzzle is missing. We may get most of the picture, but it isn't complete.
On that note I have to give this movie a shout out for the sumptuous score from the late great Basil Poledouris and the impressive number of pop hits from the early 80s from artists like Michael Sembello, Depeche Mode, Stephen Bishop, Tina Turner, The Cage, Heaven 17, Elton John, and Chicago! While these songs may not fit the film as well as they possibly should, they're a great listen and a nice throwback to my childhood music upbringing. 'Summer Lovers' is one of those middle ground movies where it isn't terrible by any stretch, but it may be severely lacking for some. It's worth a shot if you're at all curious.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Summer Lovers' make its Blu-ray debut thanks to Twilight Time. Pressed on a Region Free BD50 disc, the disc comes housed in a standard clear case with booklet featuring an essay by Julie Kirgo. Per the Twilight Time model, this disc is limited to a run of 3000 copies.
'Summer Lovers' earns some decent marks with a colorful and detailed 1.85:1 1080p transfer. Given the scenic beauty that surrounds the Greek island location, colors leap off the screen - especially blues. With the rocks and the type of architecture whites have a lot of pop to them but thankfully don't cause any kind of blooming or bleed effect. With film grain retained, detail levels are very strong throughout offering a lot to see and appreciate. Black levels and shadows are pretty strong for most of the film - especially the daylight sequences where there is a nice feeling of three-dimensional depth, however, night shots have a slight tendency to crush with some slightly tweaked contrast levels, and the image can feel a bit flat at times. There is also some age-related speckling here and there, but otherwise the print is in fine shape.
'Summer Lovers' enjoys a nicely resonate DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. From the sounds of wind sweeping over the rocky landscape to the crashing of waves to the beautiful Basil Poledouris score, the audio mix for this track is practically pitch perfect. As a dialogue loaded film, conversations come through crisp and clean without any kind of distortion from the background sound effects or when things pick up and the trio head out to a nightclub. Speaking again of the soundtrack, the numerous pop songs featured throughout the film get a lot of extra space and oomph - almost as if you were watching a music video. Levels are just fine, as I mentioned previously, this is a very conversation heavy film so there are rarely any kind of spikes of drops that would require you to monitor and adjust your volume levels.
Audio Commentary: Writer/Director Randal Kleiser flies solo for this track. It's very informative as he discusses the genesis of the idea for the film, the songs, the score, and casting. It's an okay track but at the same time there is a lack of spontaneity to make if feel genuine. A lot of the time it sounds like Kleiser is reading from a book he wrote rather than commenting on what is happening in any given scene.
The Making of Summer Lovers: (SD 12:14) This is a very dated, but still pretty decent extra feature.
Basil Poledouris: His Life and Music: (HD 48:13) Produced in conjunction with Film Score Monthly, this is a wonderful look back at Poledouris and his contribution to film music. It features a lot of on-camera interviews with Basil and his family as they talk about his love of music and his processes.
Screen Tests: (SD 15:10) These are a series of screen tests for the role of Michael - apparently Patrick Swayze was up for the role at one point. The audio is difficult to hear at times, but it's still interesting to see this part of the production process.
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 2:06) A simple enough trailer that sets up the movie and lets you in on the basics of what the movie is going to be.
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 2:28) Virtually the same trailer again, a bit longer and plays up the dramatic angle of things.
'Summer Lovers' is one of those movies that at the end of things feels fairly by the numbers. Considering the provocative story idea, the film does a lot without saying much. Twilight Time has assembled a heck of a Blu-ray release for this title with a strong A/V presentation and a host of strong and informative extras. Fans of the film should be more than happy with this release while those new to the film should consider a rental.