Title: Enchanted April
Language: English, Italian
Director: Mike Newell
Writer: Peter Barnes
based on the novel by Elizabeth von Arnim
Music: Richard Rodney Bennett
Cinematography: Rex Maidment
The seismic importance of doing nothing in a new environment, preferably, a picturesque one, brings the quartet of four British women together from the inclement and dreary London in 1920s, to a whole month vacation in San Salvatore, Italy. Mrs. Lottie Wilkins (Lawrence) is the eager enabler, who relentlessly eggs on Mrs. Rose Arbuthnot (Richardson) to be her traveling companion and share the 60 pound rent from the proprietor George Briggs (Kitchen). Later, they are joined by another two guests the gorgeous socialite Caroline Dester (Walker) and the grumpy elderly widow Ms. Fisher (Plowright).
This four women each has their very distinctive characteristics, Lottie is married to a steady but unimaginative lawyer Mellersh (Molina), whose business intuition and practicality always precede romantic consideration in their torpid marriage. But Lottie is an irrepressible happy-go-lucky, as she often states, she can see inside of a person, socially clumsy and frivolous, nevertheless, she never represses to be herself and is a perpetual transporter of mirth and cheerfulness no matter how inarticulate she is. Rose is a more levelheaded type, but also entrapped in a stagnant marriage with Frederick (Broadbent), a swinging novelist, as she laments, “I bore him, and it is impossible to un-bore a person?”, sexually-oppressed, her life needs to be reinvigorated. Caroline, is a young woman who owns everything, beauty, social status, wealth and countless suitors, yet, she is fundamentally disturbed by the emptiness of all of them, she needs time and space to think and un-think, a rich girl’s blues. Finally Ms. Fisher, whose dame aura is a deterrent to cheap sympathy, piercingly ruminates her co-existence with solitude and battles the reliance on her walking stick.
Directed by Newell before his career vertex FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (1994), the film is comfortably confident with its ethereal location and simply storyline, most of the time nothing is happening, it is just 4 women enjoys their holiday with occasional and harmless bickering, cozily accompanied by some gleeful references of cultural discrepancy, embellishing with the straightforward Italian farce in the background. Then comes the high point when Mellersh, George and Frederick are all joined in the same room, a whiff of budding romance, awkward encounter and rekindled passion all materialise in the final act, but Newell maintains a firm hand not to let it slip into a chaotic fuss, instead, the vacation ends in a dignified fashion with which everyone seems to be content although as the ending implies, there is another story when they are back in London. A journey can rarely alter one’s entire path-of-life, but it is a remedial getaway everyone needs (although a pretext is that you can afford it, with your nest egg sometimes), and it is a film in urgent demand of a BluRay upgrade, for all its stunning scenery and fine performances.
Plowright won a Golden Globe and is Oscar-nominated for her mighty assurance and resounding thespian background, but can one buy her about-turn completely in the end? Not for me. The unheralded Polly Walker, is captivating to behold by her force of personality, evades any pretension one can reasonably expect judging by her character’s background, and indeed she is the one generates more pathos among them all. Miranda Richardson, this versatile British actress, who is still under-appreciated although being twice Oscar-nominated, establishes adequate poignancy with subtlety while drawing a veil over her certain scene-stealing revelation, which syncs flawlessly with Josie Lawrence’s adorable imprudence. In the gent department, as clearly in the supporting category, only Molina’s expressive formality registers a strong impression. After all, ENCHANTED APRIL is not just a must-see for Anglophiles, it also has a unique weightless charm renders itself distinctive, you should give it a try, and hopefully, with a BluRay version in the near-future.