11 December 2002 | AgedInWood
A Movie For Those Who Appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine
This movie works like a tonic to make one realize what is important. Even the act of watching it is soothing. The four central characters are all women of means living in relative comfort but their lives lack passion and significance. A holiday to Italy inspires them to relax and reassess their lives, something so many of us need and never do.
Lotty (Josie Lawrence) discovers an ad in the newspaper announcing an Italian castle available to let for the month of April. She implores her neighbor, Rose (Miranda Richardson), to invest in the trip so that together they might find happiness. Lawrence and Richardson beautifully portray compliant wives who are defined by their husbands, homes and obligations. Their body language and speech are so repressed at the beginning of the film. I found myself thinking that one or both of them will crack if they do not find peace.
To defray the cost of the trip, Lotty and Rose invite two other women to share in the villa rental, an elderly matron (Joan Plowright) and a titled socialite (Polly Walker). Interestingly, both Mrs. Fisher and Lady Caroline are very fragile, lonely women who have known great loss and mask their pain with cold exteriors. One is trapped by her past while the other is trapped by her beauty. Plowright shines as the brusque outer layers peel away and we discover her heart.
While each actress portrays a traditional female stereotype (Lawrence the daft, eager to please wife, Richardson the puritan, Plowright the hardened dowager, Walker the used up party girl), it does not detract and in fact, includes the viewer as we see something of them in us and vice versa.
For me, the essence of the film occurs when Lotty befriends Mrs. Fisher in a poignant scene. It characterizes the hope that all the women had when they embarked on their journeys. To love and be loved. To be happy with self. To be enchanted by life.