WISTERIA AND SUNSHINE
SMALL MEDIEVAL ITALIAN CASTLE
on the shores of the Mediterranean to
be Let furnished for the month of April.
When she spots an acquaintance, Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson), reading the same ad at the Nightingale Women’s Club, Lotty decides it must be providence. She sees in Rose a soulmate who also needs a break from her monotonous everyday existence. Lotty proposes that they rent the castle and take a vacation just for themselves. As she explains to Rose: “I’ve been doing things for other people since I was eleven and I don’t feel any better for it.”
To defray the costs, they advertise for two other roommates. Only two women respond: Mrs. Fisher (Joan Plowright), a lonely, elderly woman who wants to “sit in the shade and remember better times” and Caroline Dester (Polly Walker), an attractive socialite tired of being relentlessly pursued by men.
During the month they share together in their lovely chateau surrounded by verdant splendor, these four women learn about each other, gain insight into themselves and their loved ones, and emerge with a new outlook on life. Perhaps everything works out too neatly in the end, but Enchanted April is a joyous, life-affirming film and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The cast is impeccable, with the four leading ladies receiving excellent support from Alfred Molina as Josie’s business-minded husband and Jim Broadbent as Rose’s feckless, but redeemable, husband. Michael Kitchen charmingly plays the owner of the castle, the visually-impaired George Briggs.
Equally impressive is Mike Newell’s subtle direction. The London scenes are photographed in drab, brownish tones, while the color seems to explode with brilliance when the action shifts to Italy. Newell also make effective, constrained use of voiceovers that let us eavesdrop into each character’s thoughts.
Enchanted April was made for BBC television, but released theatrically in the U.S. Its source novel was first adapted for the screen in 1935, but I’ve never seen that version. This one is a film to be cherished.