Enchanted April (1992): Starring Joan Plowright and Miranda Richardson

British director Mike Newell’s Enchanted April is literate, gentle, dialogue driven, and perhaps most important of all respectful of its great actresses.  But it is also a bit dull, slow-paced, and self-conscious, lacking the magic implies in its title.


Thematically and visually, the film contrasts London’s gray skies and oppressiveness on a rainy day with the sunny fresh-air of Italy’s countryside.  Like “A Room With A View,” the movie shows the impact of an Italian vacation on a group of English troubled women, who have been repressed housewives for too long. 


Peter Barnes’ Oscar-nominated scenario, based on the 1921 novel by Elizabeth von Armin, centers on Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence), a shabby middle-class wife, blessed with a self-proclaimed magical ability to see into people.  When her eyes catch a newspaper ad for a month in an Italian villa, she immediately thinks of her downtrodden neighbor Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson).  Though the two hardly know each, they both need a getaway and thus embark as traveling companions on an unknown adventure—not unlike the heroines of “Thelma and Louise,” released a year earlier.


To save money, two other eccentric femmes join this couple: the haughty widow Mrs. Fisher (Joan Plowright) and the alluring society lady, Caroline Dester (Polly Walker), who is the opposite of all the others.


Newell, who showed strong directorial voice in the l985 “Dance with a Stranger,” also with Miranda Richardson, made Enchanted April as an actors’ vehicle, a showcase for the talents of Joan Plowright and Miranda Richardson. 


For a while, you hope the subdued and restrained comedy will turn into a variant of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but instead, it is a rather earnest movie about personality transformation, self-renewal and life lessons about female camaraderie.    


Oscar Nominations: 3


Supporting Actress: Joan Plowright

Screenplay (Adapted): Peter Barnes

Costume Design: Sheena Napier


Oscar Awards: None