For 16 years Miss Bentley has been spending April at an elegant hillside villa on Lake Como. This year, 1937, her London society artist father has recently died and the only other English-speaking guests are brash Americans. Then Major Wilshaw arrives.
This inoffensive slice of middle-aged romance adapted from a short story by H.E. Bates gives Vanessa Redgrave an unusual space for her comic talents as the strong-willed and impetuous Miss Bentley who, after the death of her father, returns in spring 1935 to the Lake Como resort where she holidayed as a child and young woman. There she meets, falls for, and attempts to entangle fellow holiday- maker Major Wilshore (Fox).
The pair arrange a series of dates, each of which end in minor disasters, and it all looks like just another case of failed holiday romance, until the flirtatious behaviour of the wilful Miss Beaumont (Thurman) persuades the Major to stay a while longer. However, it takes the arrival of a second suitor, Vittorio (Alessandro Gassman), for Wilshore to stop dithering between the two ladies and realise where his true feelings lie.
Although at times Redgrave seems just a bit too jolly for comfort, she does provide most of the films charm along the way. One scene in particular, in which she swims and taunts the Major with her toned brown body, makes the pale and willowy Thurman look positively plain. Thurman, in turn, provides appealing support, while Fox gravitates nicely between wily old buffer and vulnerable gent (at one point even being reduced to tears after Thurman humiliates him in public). Also worth a mention is the clever use of location, with stunning vistas and intimate close-ups, beautifully shot by veteran Italian cinematographer Pasqualino De Santis.
On the down side, it would probably take a month by the lake to work out why the divine Miss Bentley wastes herself on such a pompous mate, even though Foxs performance is not without its humour. However, if you like your love affairs autumnal, and can overlook the rather pat, obvious ending, this whimsical little fairy tale will engage well enough.
Whimsical, but uneven