After surviving a gruesome terrorist attack on an Italian train line, romance novelist Mrs. Emily Delahunty (Dame Maggie Smith) opens up her home and solitary life to a trio of stranded survivors. She soon forms friendships with each, but develops a special attachment to the young orphan Aimee (Emmy Clarke). So when Aimee's distant uncle arrives to retrieve her, Emily strives to convince the cold, mourning man that Umbria is Aimee's rightful home.Written by
Mrs. Emily Delahunty's (Dame Maggie Smith's) car is an Alfa Romeo 6C-2500, produced between 1947 and 1953. It is a five-seat touring car popular with affluent post-war customers interested in a sporty yet comfortable vehicle. See more »
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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