There are so many reviews already for this 2003 movie that I didn't think one more was necessary, however, I have read so much unjust criticism of the film with regard to stereotypes and the Italian characters that I thought perhaps a few home facts from an Italian native might be in order (and I will try my hardest not to give away the plot). For a start, the portrayal of the people is very well done, although it certainly shows Italians mostly on their best behaviour, but still very accurate. They are generally helpful, friendly and quick to accept Americans and other foreigners especially if the "stranieri" appear to sincerely appreciate a different lifestyle and don't focus entirely on the inefficiencies and shortcomings that go along with it. The scene in the notary's office is a very good example. The deal is done in a competent way but with a good dose of humanity. The people in the street scenes are as authentic as can be, they are Cortona residents and, unsurprisingly, speak with the local accent. The building crew are Polish and that explains their accents.
I was amazed to find so much venom directed at the Marcello character. His behaviour became perfectly understandable if one grasped the fact that months had elapsed between their initial meeting and the later one. The parade of potential builders is obviously meant to be a comic caricature of personalities, but it really doesn't stray too far from the truth. I have met people just like them. In fact, all the characters in the movie are fairly believable, the single exception being Ed, who (even considering his limited role) is completely wooden and exhibits the personality of the proverbial door-knob.
I detest the term "chick flick" and this film does not deserve it. I think the story was handled with such a soft, restrained hand that it was misinterpreted as being lightweight, when in fact it dealt undramatically with many human dramas. Not everything has to be guts and gore to be heart-felt. I thought Diane Lane gave a perfectly nuanced performance, her character suffered a great deal and yet she tried to handle the collapse of her marriage and ultimately her entire life in a dignified and adult way. Any sensitive person would feel her distress, no histrionics needed. The many supporting actors also gave warm, masterfully well-judged performances; particularly good, in my opinion, were Vincent Riotta, Lindsay Duncan and Pawel Szajda.
The single failing of the film might be that grasping a random opportunity and rebuilding a happy life out of the ruins of your previous one is too often a dream that does not come true, but I will never complain about an optimistic and uplifting viewpoint. It certainly beats the current fixation with wallowing in the ugliest and vilest possible view of mankind which so-called "serious" film makers try to pass off as gritty realism.
The photography is of the highest level, the Tuscan countryside and Positano coastline appear in all their glory (even off-season) and Audrey Wells did a great job of the screenplay and direction, despite the obvious technical challenges of adapting a book to the wide screen and, apparently, a tight budget. And finally, contrary to another common complaint, my OH and I both enjoy watching this beautiful production and do so at regular intervals whenever we need a bit of cheering up and a virtual visit to the Tuscany we know and love.