Top positive review
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CAN'T WAIT FOR THE DVD
on November 10, 2003
I saw this lovely film on HBO, and it's to their immense credit that this film was seen at all. This film would never be released by a major studio these days. They are only concerned with huge blockbuster movies, yet anyone who cares about a strong, emotional story, set in gorgeous Umbria and starring Maggie Smith shouldn't miss this gem.
Maggie Smith stars as an aging romance novelist living in splendid isolation in her villa in the Umbrian countryside. On a shopping trip, the train she's traveling on is bombed by terrorists. When the dust is settled, Smith, and several of the travelers who shared her compartment, are in the hospital, including a little girl who has lost her parents. Smith generously offers her home as a refuge for the survivors to recuperate.
The traumatized little girl can't speak. Smith's heart goes out to her, and she does her best to make her as comfortable as possible. Smith's rather bohemian character, as well as her fondness for cocktails makes her a slightly madcap, tipsy hostess. Rather lonely of late, this unexpected intrusion in her life makes her feel needed. There's a young man with a secret to hide, and an older pensioner who round out the group. Then the little girl's uptight uncle (played with unstated eloquence by Chris Cooper) comes to take custody of his brother's orphaned daughter.
Smith is devasted by his coldness, his disapproval, and senses that he simply is taking the girl out of a sense of duty to his brother.
I won't give anymore of the plot away. Dame Maggie won a well-deserved Emmy for her superb portrayal of a middle-aged spinster, lonely for love, and with her own tragic past, who finds a purpose in her life in the aftermath of tragedy. The script is superb, the Italian settings and the gorgeous period costumes as well as fine work from a strong cast, make this a memorble viewing experience.
Nobody captures loneliness as truthfully as Dame Maggie. She's been doing it throughout her long career, as Rod Taylor's assistant in the bloated VIPs, as the headstrong teacher in THE PRME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE, as the actress nominated for an Oscar in CALIFORNIA SUITE, and countless other memorable screen portraits. Highly recommended.