Though it’s based–very loosely, as it happens–on a novel by Helen Cross, Pawel Pawlikowski’s “My Summer of Love” feels like a cinematic short story, not merely because it runs a mere 83 minutes but because the narrative is so small-scaled and tightly focused. On the surface it’s a familiar tale of a naive, rather rustic young person who has a romantic summer idyll with a more sophisticated, experienced partner. But in this case both are not only female, but more emotionally extreme than is usual in such stories. And another form of extremism is added to the mix–a form of religious fundamentalism that impinges upon the relationship.

Set in a lush green area of northwest England, the story revolves around Mona (Nathalie Press), a rather grubby parentless Yorkshire teen who lives with her ex-con brother Phil (Paddy Considine) on the upper floor of their dad’s old pub. Phil is a born-again Christian who’s transforming the bar into a meeting-house for like-minded souls, and who’s undertaken a project to implant a huge crucifix on a hill overlooking the town. Mona, who has no use for what she dismisses as her brother’s follies, spends most of her time tooling around the countryside on an old scooter she intends to buy a motor for when she gets the cash, until on her jaunts she meets the horse-riding Tamsin (Emily Blunt), a rich kid from the nearby manor sent home from school. Tasmin fascinates Mona with her mixture of flamboyant erudition and recklessness (as well as her skill at manipulation), and before long the two have become virtually inseparable–something that so unnerves Phil that he literally locks his sister in her room to end the affair. The relationship between the girls is not, however, as simple as it seems, and the last act involves reversals that bring a burnt autumnal taste to the summer’s proceedings.

There are structural problems to “My Summer of Love,” particularly in terms of the religious subplot, which frankly seems an addendum contrived to serve as an overly-artificial alternative to the pagan wantonness of the two girls’ complete lack of restraint and disdain for social propriety and accepted sexual mores. (That fact has an unfortunate effect on the talented Considine, whose performance doesn’t match his best work, coming across as rather hard-pressed.) But the film is less concerned with narrative logic than with mood and emotional impact, and it makes up for shortcomings in the one area with strengths in the other. The steamy relationship between Mona and Tasmin is the centerpiece of the film, and–as a result of Pawlikowski’s supple direction, performances by Press and Blunt which combine wildness and sensitivity, and the close-up photography–it has an almost tactile sultriness. Ryszard Lenczewski’s camerawork proves a major contribution to the picture’s seductive tone elsewhere as well: it somehow manages to combine a bright sheen with an almost gritty naturalism, giving the outdoor scenes a sort of impressionistic ruggedness rather while imparting deep tones to the indoor shots, especially those in Tasmin’s wood-paneled home, which take on a russet glow. The music score by Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory gets overemphatic at times, but it’s generally supportive.

While the overarching narrative thrust of “My Summer of Love” is certainly familiar, Pawlikowski throws enough twists into the formula, and informs the tale with such moodiness and style, that the result is intoxicating, even hypnotic. Following the powerful, grimly realistic immigrant drama “Last Resort,” which was part of the lamented Shooting Gallery Independent Film Series some years back, it marks him as a talent to watch.