Enchanted April is one of my favourite movies. It’s a film even my husband will happily sit down and watch with me. If you love a happy ending this one is definitely for you.
I could tell you that the film won Golden Globe awards, and fill you in on the author – Elisabeth von Arnim, born in Australia, who married a European count, later built a chateau in Switzerland and entertained her friends there, including her lover, H.G.Wells and her cousin, Katharine Mansfield. But the film is even more interesting and so much fun!
This version of the book was filmed in 1991. It looks fantastic, with brilliant cinematography and a great cast. But what makes this movie so good is its warmth, its humour and the sheer joy of the story which is an affirmation of friendship and love.
Set in the 1920s, the story is about four very different women living in gloomy London. Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence) sees a stranger Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson) reading an ad in a newspaper. A castle in northern Italy is for rent during April. The advertisement promises ‘wisteria and sunshine’. Both women are unhappily married, and succumb to the lure of the warm south. In order to spread the cost of the holiday they seek two other women to share the castle. Joan Plowright is pure gold as the starchy, disapproving Mrs Fisher whose Italian is a little out of date because she learnt it reading Dante. Polly Walker is absolutely delicious as Lady Caroline Dexter, world weary society glamour girl, fatigued by the demands of her constant social life.
Caroline: I want to just sit and not talk and not have to be the centre of attention all the time. You know what that's like don't you?
The humour in this story slips from wry to sly and there’s definitely a touch of Lady Bracknell about Mrs Fisher. For instance:
Mrs. Fisher: In my day husbands and beds were very seldom mentioned in the same breath. Husbands were taken seriously, as the only true obstacle to sin.
The scene between the ever so prim and proper Edwardian lady, Mrs Fisher, and a soot blackened, naked-but-for-a-bathtowel Mr Wilkins (Alfred Molina), introducing themselves in the corridor after his hot water system has exploded, is one of my favourites.
Gradually San Salvatore weaves its spell over the women, who begin to see their lives and each other from new perspectives. Lottie and Rose decide to invite their husbands to join them: the miserly, business-obsessed Mellersh (Alfred Molina) and Frederick, the author of risqué books (Jim Broadbent). Even the castle’s owner, (Michael Kitchen) arrives to complicate matters.
Whether the magic is in the place, or the in the women themselves, that April in Italy changes all of them. They find love, hope and the promise of a brighter future. Enchanted April is a film to watch at any time. It leaves you smiling, and ready to take on the world.
(am I allowed to give a 10? Who cares, this film deserves it!)
Annie’s latest release, FOR THE SHEIKH’S PLEASURE, is available this month in the UK (Mills and Boon Modern) and North America (Harlequin Presents) so look out for it on the shelves.
You can read an excerpt on her website too.