Widow Lilia courts disfavour with her snobby English family by marring a young dentist on a visit to Italy. Lilia dies while giving birth to a son, and two relatives travel to Italy to take care of of the baby, expecting no trouble from the father.
If the shorthand Sturridge, Forster and Bonham Carter turns you off, be advised this British coffee table film is quite diverting. It is, of course, comely to look upon, and stuffed with corseted, stiff-collared gentry. It is also less arch a comedy of manners than one might dread, leavened with sadness and shrewd observation of the British going about their business of bungling abroad.
When flightly widow Lilia (Mirren) impulsively halts her Grand Tour with companion Caroline (Bonham Carter) to canoodle with a poor young Italian Adonis (Guidelli, all oiled hair, flashing teeth and machismo) her snoot relations go mental and dispatch stick-in-the-mud Philip (Graves) to retrieve her. But Lilia defiantly remains to produce a child, setting off a disaster-strewn chain of events as an at-odds trio of Inglesi Philip, sister Harriet (Davis) and earnest, doughty Caroline charge back to Tuscany intent on rescuing the infant from its odious foreign sire.
Judy Davis, in the sort of role that used always to fall to Maggie Smith, is quite hilariously brilliant as a supercilious, sneering and highly-strung spinster incapable of comprehending another culture or a conflicting opinion, and a fastidious, mustachioed Graves is dry and droll. Its rather long and slow while the English tell everybody else how to behave and have their lives changed by Italian vitality, but if this sort of thing is ones cup of tea, its quite a refreshing little Earl Grey.
Slow, delibrate and high on melodrama, it'll leave genre fans with their stiff upper lips quivering.