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My House in Umbria
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Reviews & Ratings for
My House in Umbria (TV) More at IMDbPro »

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31 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

How does one heal? Alone, or in the company of friends?

Author: weirsal from Chichester-, NY
14 April 2004

A tragedy leaves five people scarred. To heal, one of the survivors invites the others to her home in the Umbrian hills. As she says, to let the beauty of Umbria be a healing balm.

Umbria is one of the stars of the film, yet with a deft hand the director and cinematographer weave its physical beauty to complement the unfolding drama of the film.

Maggie Smith delivers a stunning performance. Her character is a flawed woman who escapes into an alcoholic haze and dreamweaving to explore her soul and the souls of those around her. Ever curious, she delves into places she should not, but always with kind and good intentions.

Chris Cooper plays a persnickety scientist with understated excellence. His facial expressions are magnificent, his words economical, his performance strong.

Ronnie Barker plays a retired English military with aplomb. Beno Furmann delivers a low-key performance, his eyes and his face reflecting guilt and pain. Timothy Spall plays an Irishman with a rare sweetness. A young American girl, Emmy Clarke, plays the film's lynchpin, Aimee, with simple perfection. And Giancarlo Giannini adds a deft touch.

This is a delightful film. There is no glitz, no whiz-bang action. It is a study of the human soul, of the human capacity to deal with pain, to cope, and to survive. The acting ranges from the good to the wonderful, and it is a fabulous example of film-making.

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24 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Dame Maggie will never ever put a foot wrong

Author: lanimae61 from Australia
19 September 2005

I reserve 10 out of ten for "Tea With Mussolini". Dame Maggie gives another outstanding performance as a writer who encounters a bomb on a train. It was a way to introduce the 4 main characters (not including the fabulous Quinty) who we come to love. The clever voice overs weave a beautiful thread (by Maggie of course) tieing together a story of mutual care and affection. Mrs Delahunty loves a drink or 15 and her hospitality extends to anyone within her reach. Has she become a lonely old lady who just wants company in her secluded villa? Does it really matter that there may be a dark secret amongst her guests? No! The outside dinner scene the night before the girl Aimee was due to leave was stunning. I so hoped she wouldn't go and that the "family" would stay together........

I'd wath this again and again and will add it to my extensive collection. GO DAME MAGGIE!

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26 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

One good film

Author: narnerbee from Mid West
31 May 2003

This made-for-t.v. film has all the qualities of an academy award nominated. It bears a wonderful cast, terrific story line, a marvelous narration by Maggie Smith (not to mention a great cast) and great scenery of Italy. This fine tale of survival, and living catched my attention months before its release, and when I finally saw it, it was worth the wait! Such potential put to good use. Maggie Smith pleases as always in the leading role, with Benno Fuermann close

behind as a mysterieous character. Such a good film, well worth your time!

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19 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Never has grappa played so central a role.

Author: Tim Johnson from Fremantle, Australia
6 March 2005

Seeing Maggie Smith's character start the day with a wee glass of grappa and end her day with another is not exactly what we have come to expect from this marvelous actor but these twists in William Trevor's novella are precisely what the viewer is presented with throughout this wonderful film. My statement is in no way meant to denigrate the scrip-it simply is a signpost indicating the varied paths that the viewer follows as the film progresses.

The visual beauty of the film is taken for granted because of its magical setting-it's just the many little detours taken by the characters during the course of the unfolding drama that kept this poor viewer from anticipating the unfolding script changes. I saw a film I didn't quite expect to see because the early publicity seemed to gloss over these script changes. However, the resulting movie was better and more interesting than any I could have predicted-in part due to the remarkable acting of the cast.

Maggie's character is the mover of the film and all events revolve around her. Her character is strangely ambivalent in that she at first sight is this straight laced woman who appears to do everything "properly" but as the film unfolds she shows many more aspects to her role. For me it was similar to watching an onion being peeled and I found each underlying layer more interesting than the previous. Chris Cooper's character was also intrigued by this unfolding but he didn't find what he saw as interesting as I did.

Try to watch this lovely, interesting film-you can spend your time in a theater in far worse ways.

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20 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

The Prime of Miss Maggie Smith

Author: gws-2 from United States
26 May 2003

Not since "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" has Maggie Smith, nor maybe any other actress, created a character as memorable as Mrs. Emily Delahunty in "My House in Umbria." Smith appears in virutally every scene and does a lot of voice-over narration, too boot. Every frame is a pleasure. "My House in Umbria" is smart, funny, and bittersweet. Chris Cooper has become everybody's choice to play detestable characters. Here, he does it again as the repressed, unhappy, and toweringly rude Tom Riversmith. Because of Riversmith's importance to the plot, though, an actor with Cooper's considerable skill was required to make the movie work. Highly recommended, 9 out of 10.

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21 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Maggie Smith Excels in Italy

Author: John Bale from Australia
28 March 2005

After a train bombing four survivors find refuge in the villa of wealthy English writer Mrs. Delahunty. The other survivors, an American girl, a British general, and a young German struggle to come to terms with the disaster, as a Police Inspector tries to determine exactly what happened. This most human and moving story is beautifully played out by a superb cast of character actors including surprisingly Ronnie Barker as the general. A far cry from his TV comedy routines. But the standout performance is Maggie Smith as Mrs. Delahunty who after a somewhat dysfunctional life becomes a helper of others. Combining the sensitive performances and witty script, is the sweeping photography of the Italian countryside. This is a film that leaves you uplifted at its conclusion, and its hard to fault it in anyway. Worth a round of applause.

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17 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

An underrated triumph

Author: wiseup from UK
28 December 2004

Having just seen this film in the cinema, I have to say it didn't flag at all, and it was graced by one of Maggie Smith's greatest performances - and which fully deserved her Emmy award. The film dramatises the necessary illusions with which we need to live our lives. For Emily Delahunty, alcohol and the escapism of the romance fiction she writes are the props to her very existence. To keep sane the illusion of happiness sometimes is necessary to keep going. And yet, out of tragedy comes the hint of salvation: some kind of family, and a girl who becomes a symbol of how she can have hope for the future. This is not a cosy film, as some misguided critics have labelled it. It is not gardens, Italy, cups of tea: it is a film of illusion, escapism, isolation and the human spirit in the face of tragedy and death. Released in the UK after the quaint "Ladies in Lavender" it was unfortunately seen by the critics as exactly the same kind of film - and so missing the point completely.

Playing the troubled alcoholic, a vulnerable ageing romance novelist, Smith is on amazing form. Never mannered, she is perfect in her second role in a William Trevor novella (her first was in the 1984 "Mrs Silly" for ITV in the UK, for which she was nominated for a BAFTA). Using those expressive eyes, and a crushed, occasionally slurred voice, she draws you into the film. If this makes me sound like a Smith groupie, I have to point out that I disliked intensely this actress's mannered caricatures in such films as "Tea with Mussolini" or "Washington Square" (though, faced with the awful scripts, maybe she decided just to push it for laughs...). That is why she deserves recognition for this film: she reminds us that, with the right material, she can be the best - and not just the witty old bat in "Gosford Park" or the the stern teacher in "Harry Potter". After Smith's Emmy award, it was criminal that Meryl Streep robbed Dame Maggie at the Golden Globes for her raiding of the dressing-up box in "Angels in America".

For the supporting cast, Ronnie Barker, Timothy Spall, and Chris Cooper are all superb: understated, natural, and working in a brilliant ensemble. They have such rapport with Smith that the film just whizzes by.

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Gentle as the Umbrian countryside

Author: Jackie Scott-Mandeville from Strathlachlan, Scotland, United Kingdom
23 February 2006

This film would immediately appeal to anyone addicted to Maggie Smith and the idyllic Italian countryside of Umbria, but it has unexpected delights to offer in its unassuming, almost art-house, flavour, and the low-key, but affecting, performances of excellent actors Timothy Spall and Ronnie Barker. Chris Cooper is rather wooden, but his academic, unemotional character casts a strong contrast to the hapless vagaries of Maggie Smith's Emily Delahuntey, and therefore works well.

Suspension of disbelief is required for the over-imaginative plot, almost out of one of Emily's romance novels. But the pleasure of such a film is simple, and simple pleasures can entertain as much as the richer, more complex enjoyment of films it might be compared with such as 'Tea With Mussolini' (which, of course, is a much fuller film in terms of plot, characters, script, and drama). 'Enchanted April' also comes to mind as another film where the Italian countryside is almost a character of the film and much more than a backdrop.

A very pleasant interlude for a winter's afternoon, or Spring evening, and Maggie Smith is as mannered and original as ever. I especially loved her flowing clothes, which suited her and her character very well.

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26 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

Maggie Smith redeems flawed film about redemption

Author: lazarus_ca_48 ( from Canada
10 January 2005

The HBO TV movie "My House in Umbria" should be seen primarily for the complex and layered performance of divine Maggie Smith. As romance novelist Emily Delahunty, she projects an image of refinement and elegance that conceals a deeper, darker self. That self is revealed slowly, and we find hidden within a character that is not only at variance with Miss Delahunty's adopted persona, but also very different from the prim and proper ladies Maggie Smith habitually plays on the silver screen. We see that Miss Smith is capable even of being seductive and slatternly, most unlike her many repressed and spinsterish roles.

Maggie Smith has the kind of mesmerizing voice and marvelous diction that would enable her to entertain film audiences by reading the proverbial telephone book. I am reminded of Glenda Jackson's (virtual) one-woman show in "Stevie" and Joanne Woodward's voice-over of "The Age of Innocence".

The rest of the characters in "My House in Umbria" are, alas, a motley crew, sketched in only very lightly, merely second bananas to Maggie Smith's central figure. The time of the story is difficult to pin down based on the clothes and motor cars, but one imagines it takes place during the 1970s, the era of the Bader-Meinhof gang in Germany and the Red Brigades in Italy. The denouement is a little too pat, but the journey is still well worth our while.

One of the key questions raised in the film is what anger would drive a human being to commit an act of terror. But it becomes quickly apparent that political terrorism is not the only kind of "man's inhumanity to man" that is intended here. The focus is, rather, on innocence shattered and destroyed, the cruelty visited by individuals upon each other, the sense of guilt that it engenders, and the possibility of forgiveness and redemption that always, always exists if we "seize the day" and allow ourselves to be happy.

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18 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Delicious Movie...with a tiny exception

Author: strawberryswt ( from New York
14 April 2004

The movie was wonderful. 'My House in Umbria' was like a fresh breath of Italian countryside air, or taking a bite into a delicious pie in a terrace in Italy. The sites were breathtaking, even if they were seen from my television. The story was understandable and intriguing. The characters were fun. Mrs. Delahunty, a romantic novelist, with her numerous names and vibrant personality; i found myself wanting to be like her - minus the excessive drinking and smoking. There were also the many friends she had made on a train which had been in an accident. These strangers put together in Mrs.Delahunty's villa. Werner, the general, and Aimee (a young face who was very captivating on screen), and Quinty. All these characters truly made the film. BUT the only stain in the wonderful fabric that is this movie was Chris Cooper's character, Mr. Tom River-something. I found him rather pompus but a necessary element in the movie. I can't find more words to describe the movie. The scenes of Italian cities and towns were wonderful. oh, and mrs.delahunty's thoughts were well illustrated on screen. All in all i truly liked the movie. I think this movie will delight many people.

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