Under The Tuscan Sun

UK release date: Mar 26 2008

cast list

Diane Lane
Sandra Oh
Lindsay Duncan
Raoul Bowa
Vincent Riotta

directed by
Audrey Wells
Time and again the formula is a winning one: film on location in Italy, ladle on copious quantities of romance, and bello! you have a winner. All this is true of Under The Tuscan Sun, a squidgy but endearing film loosely based on the autobiographical book by Frances Mayes.

A crushing divorce hits novelist and reviewer Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) hard, forcing her to sell her home and live in divorcee motel hell. But pregnant gay friend Patti (Sandra Oh) has the solution to her friend’s ills – a ticket on a gay tour of beautiful, romantic Tuscany. After some deliberation, Frances accepts the ticket – and then spontaneously buys a 300-years-old villa. So begins the plucky lady’s quest to stake out a new life for herself and to move on.

As she sets about restoring the villa she encounters a range of characters including a set of Polish labourers and an eccentric English expat (Lindsay Duncan). But when she finds the time for a trip to Rome, she’s bowled over by antiques dealer Marcello (Raoul Bova). He just happens to live in much-filmed and still stunning Positano, giving us the chance to marvel again at the Amalfi coast road on the way to that singular town by the sea.

From Tuscan poppy fields to scenes of Florence, and of course the shots of Positano, the backdrop for the story – after leaving grim San Francisco – simply couldn’t be more pleasant on the eye. Director and screenwriter Audrey Wells takes great pleasure at including plants and animals in shot, as well as classic vistas, but she still finds time for humour in the building work and in the quirky characters of the local people.

Lane is up to the challenge of dominating the screen despite her impressive surroundings. She can be soppy when called for and a hoot when in the mood, and her performance makes the audience cheer her along in her quest for love and happiness.

Lindsay Duncan gets to wear lots of outlandish hats and dance about in a fountain, while Vincent Riotta as Mayes’ estate agent friend turns in a pleasingly understated performance, showing that not all Italians in Hollywood have to wave their hands about to be authentic. Indeed, the script is aware of the cliches – and gives plenty of them to Marcello.

We don’t get a film to change the world here. This is rather a feelgood, looks even better movie designed to show that all of life is a game of chance – one must simply be courageous enough to take the plunge.

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