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Dan Stevens and Emily Browning in 'Summer in February.' (Photo: Handout)
Dan Stevens and Emily Browning in 'Summer in February.' (Photo: Handout)
Dan Stevens and Emily Browning in ‘Summer in February.’ (Photo: Handout)

Dan Stevens’ post-Downton Abbey career got off to a sputtering start with the opening last weekend in the U.K. of Summer in February. The film failed to score in a big way either with the critics or at the box office.

Stevens both stars in and helped produce Summer in February, a period romantic drama based on historical figures. He shot it a year ago before appearing in his final as dreamboat Matthew Crawley in the hit British TV series.

Set in the early part of the 20th century, Summer in February tells of a love triangle at an artist’s colony in Cornwall between painter A.J. Munnings (Dominic Cooper), aspiring artist Florence Carter Wood (Emily Browning) and Gilbert Evans (Stevens), a local land agent and military man.

The film is based on a book and adapted screenplay by Jonathan Smith, who was Stevens’ teacher at school back in the Downton star’s teenage years. British TV vet Christopher Menaul (The Forsyte Saga) directed the film.

What did reviewers have to say? “[Stevens] acquits himself acceptably, but appears to stay well within his comfort zone. If he’s to advance his film career, getting himself cast against type would be a good start. Gilbert is pleasant, but dull; it’s not a good sign during scenes with him and Florence when you find yourself admiring their earth-toned knitwear,” wrote David Gritten in The Telegraph.

Damning with faint praise, The Guardian’s Michael Hann wrote, “Stevens — likable as ever — does his jolly-decent-Cousin-Matthew thing.” The Independent‘s Anthony Quinn was even less kind, dismissing Stevens’ portrayal as “drippy.”

Regarding the movie itself, critic Gary Young in the Birmingham Mail sniffed, “As a drama, it’s not quite as bad as watching paint dry, but with a lack of confrontation the moments of heartfelt regret are too self-absorbed to engage the viewer’s emotions. If you hear anyone near you sniffling in the audience, chances are it will be due to hay fever.” Ouch.

The film grossed $117,642 in its opening weekend in the U.K. and Ireland according to Box Office Mojo UK. It was released in 64 theaters and had a per screen average of only $1,838. (To put that in perspective, the weekend’s top opener, Man of Steel, grossed $17,589,933 in the U.K., Ireland and Malta, flying into 572 theater for a per screen average of $30,752.)

Summer has yet to land a U.S. distribution deal; its performance last weekend in U.K. theaters isn’t likely to help its chances.

Here’s Stevens discussing the film with an interviewer for The Guardian:

Do you want to see Summer in February?

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By Leah Rozen