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Peace within war. An adult voice narrates a story of childhood during World War II when he lived with his mother, brother, and sister on an estate in Australia's Hunter Valley, his father away fighting, and two Italian prisoners of war staying with them, in effect being his papa. They are joined by Jewish refugees from Berlin, a mother and daughter. There's heat between the German daughter, Rachel, and Joseph, one of the Italians, and there's an attraction between Dorothy, the head of the family, and Alfredo, the other Italian. A carriage accident, a tick, the local martinet, Madame Gutman's pride, and the change that comes with peace threaten to bring tragedy. Plus, father may return. Written by
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It's pretty, has heart but by god the dialogue's clunky
There's some things to like about this film, especially the beautiful sets and the photography. It's a wonderful idea (true story?), too, bringing together the main players who have all lost something in an oasis of calm outside the raging global war.
We are presented, in part, with a lilting, lyrical depiction of this little paradise that provides safe haven to them all. The photography gives us golden light and sweeping movements, landscape and close-ups of insects to show the "oneness" and interconnectedness of it all, reinforced by a romantic score.
Unfortunately, the jerky, episodic vignettes that are supposed to set the scene and the clunky dialogue provide many jarring moments. The film gradually descends into Mills & Boon romantic schlock, whether it's Steve Bastoni's Alfredo grindingly and palpably resisting temptation with Lisa Hensley's Dorothy, or Joseph and Rachel (played by Domenic Galati and Tara Jakszewicz) engaging in somehow unbelievable carnal acts in the pine needles (do they really cause a rash?).
With the exception of Steve Bastoni and Domenic Galati, the performances were distinctly unconvincing. Lisa Hensley has obvious trouble striking a balance between her character's earth mother approach to all the creatures in her care and the "British" reserve that is clearly supposed to contrast with the passionate Italians and the bitter German in the form of Madame Gutman (why Madame if she's German?). The end result is that she just sounds constipated. And I can't believe that I read a review that claims that the film doesn't fall into the trap of characters representing national stereotypes! Are we talking about the same film?
As for Rachel's German accent...........
The climactic seen where Madame Gutman denounces Alfredo and Joseph to the ineptly played military police is just pure soap, confused and utterly adrift. Silly, in fact.
Maybe the simplistic depiction of the characters and events was meant to represent the narrator's childish recollections, but that fails to explain how the child was able to accurately know or observe the emotional trauma and struggles that his characters were going through.
As I said, a nice idea and often pretty to watch but, on the whole, clunky and jarring.
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