Netflix Update No. 14: “Enchanted April”

July 27, 2009

JOAN PLOWRIGHT

JOAN PLOWRIGHT

We watched “Enchanted April,” a production that was made for British television in 1991 and was released to American theaters the following year. It was nominated for three Oscars and won two Golden Globe awards.

This is sort of a fantasy about four British women – previously strangers to each other – who rent a castle on the coast of northern Italy for a month-long vacation from lives that have become stifiling — in a different way for each of them. Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence) who instigates the sojourn, is suffocating in her relationship with a husband who appreciates her cooking but shows her no affection and makes her account, in writing, for every penny she spends.

JOSIE LAWRENCE

JOSIE LAWRENCE

Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson) is a devout woman married to a tipsy writer whose books focus on the lives of scandalous women in history and who describes his wife as “a disappointed madonna.”

Mrs. Fisher (Joan Plowright) is an aged socialite who is preoccupied with her circle of notable literary friends, all of whom have been dead for many years.

Caroline Dester (Polly Walker) is a stunning member of the titled elite who is constantly the center of attention, but not the sort of attention that contributes  to her emotional wellbeing.

POLLY WALKER

POLLY WALKER

This movie, much of it filmed at the villa that inspired the 1920 novel on which it is based, is visually enchanting. That turns out to be an appropriate quality, because the story — both dramatic and humorous in its way — depends on faith in enchantment. No matter what the four women, and their unexpected guests, may have intended when they traveled to Italy, the results of their month among the lush green hills overlooking the sea transform all of them for good.

The casting is flawless and the performances are engrossing. This film has received a lot of compliments, and they all are richly deserved. I’m not sure a person can watch it once and be satisfied.

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