An innocent youth finds love and, eventually, heartbreak in this film, which ranks among Ingmar Bergman's simplest and most unaffected. Harry (Lars Ekborg), the unworldly, unhappy hero, suffers at his job and in his personal life.
Then he falls in love with the superficial Monika (Harriet Andersson), who shows little capacity for sensitivity but radiates carnality.
Defying the repressive, degrading ways of adult society, the couple flees from the city, their responsibilities, and their problems by stealing a boat and retreating to an island, where they live free of inhibitions or social restrictions.
But when the glorious summer comes to an end, the young couple is compelled to return to the city, where their relationship soon disintegrates. Monika gives birth to their child but shows little parental inclination, preferring to sleep late and lounge about. Harry, meanwhile, tries to provide support.
Bored, Monika eventually finds another lover, whereupon Harry moves his child from their filthy apartment and determines to make a better life. With its agreeable lead actress and its unadorned style, Sommaren med Monika constitutes one of Bergman's most immediate and accessible films.
Harriet Andersson, who became a Bergman regular, shows an unabashed sexuality that would serve her well in subsequent films, and she reveals a canny ability to maintain audience interest, if not sympathy, for a character that is ultimately unappealing, even repellant. Bergman allows Andersson's performance to dominate the film.
He generally abstains from emphatic lighting or provocative angles, preferring to accommodate his actress with rich close-ups and sunlit portraits. Andersson's compelling performance, together with the film's idyllic island setting and Bergman's unfailing direction, renders Sommaren med Monika an impressive, noteworthy work.