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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 11 August 2006
I was recently asked which actresses I liked most and I replied: The three Dames and Julie Walters! Of course the three Dames are Judy Dench, Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith!

See this movie and you understand why Maggie Smith.

Her performance is first-class, subtle, vulnerable, strong, bizarre and very likeable. It is not an action movie of the American kind, but a soft, gentle, moving picture. It is touching.

Carpe Diem - seize the day. If you watch this movie, you do!
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on 31 October 2007
Wonderful film and wonderful acting, great scenery. Not a film for those that like 'crash, bang, wallop' - except for a scene near the beginning that will knock your socks off if you listen to it in 5:1 sound! The two negative reviewers that refer to 'dream sequences' and 'black and white flashbacks' have obviously completely missed the point as the film contains neither!! You do actually have to think a bit to watch films of this calibre. The acting IS great, Maggie Smith in particular proving the rich variety of her acting skills, but all the cast are good.
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on 10 August 2011
Not having read Two Lives: Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria, the novel that this is based on, I expected an undemanding, pleasant, quiet, travelogue-ish sort of film here. What I got was surprising. Maggie Smith - as you'd expect - turns in a subtle, brilliant performance as writer of romantic novels Emily Delahunty. We never learn her real name, and as the film goes on she reveals snippets from a dark past that you wouldn't expect from a seemingly wealthy, eccentric writer living in Italy (in utmost luxury, it would seem). The main narrative is intercut with snippets from Emily's memories and dreams in sepia.

My top tip: don't expect realism here. Read the film at that level and you'll think it's badly done. Instead, focus on the central character whose eccentric, brittle brightness at the beginning of the film is gradually tinged with an increasing sense of loss, sadness, loneliness and a dark past.

It's not a classic by any means, but in Emily's character there's more than a hint of Maude in Hal Ashby's counterculture classic, Harold & Maude [1971] [DVD]
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on 13 December 2004
My house in Umbria, is simply the most human film to have been released in a very long time. Its beauty stems not only from the natural Umbrian countryside, but also its appreciation for beauty inherent in: circumstance, those around us, expression, and the greatest virtue of all, forgiveness.
Maggie smith is both endearing and hilarious. This film is a restoritive elixir, for any of us who have been either blighted emotionally and physically by recent in-humane events around the world, and for those of us whom feel cut-off due to the present doxa, of emotional deadining and belief that life is frail and objective.
This film shows us that it is humanity that counts, rather than class, race or indeed past actions.
The political agenda of the film, is strongly UN centered. However, not so narrow mindedly that it cuts out the new world. In fact it is through Amy an innocent and wonderful little American girl, that the other european charachters find strength and new found footing of faith in "a providence" be it divine or otherwise.
To reiterate a point, the film focuses on humanity as a race, whose collective strength possesses the ability to heal and the change horror into undying beauty. For any American who has an apprehension that this film is in anyway USA bashing due to its strongly european setting and the introduction of terrorists into the plot of the film, i would strongly urge you to watch this film. Despite its eurocentric political range, it shows us that despite popular fear, there is still a flame of life and love which burns in each of us, and that the old world must intergrate itself with the new world so that we can forge a stronger, free world together.
Away from politics, the visual sceneary of the film is intractably magnificent.
The very quality of light, gives the audience the impression that they have stepped into a dream. one that is warm and nourishing and maternally driven and paternally protecting.
If i haven't recomended this film enough then i will say it: you absolutely must buy this film it is perfect whether you are looking for a post Xmas family film, or if you wish to find entertainment and more then a modicum of enlightenment at home on your own.
It is a deeply romantic film, not latching itself onto Hollywood's, desire to render Love between lovers hollow and franchised to death, but rather a romance between a life et all that it experiences.
5 stars is too little to award this film, it is the best film ever made.
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on 13 November 2007
I'm not usually fond of films I regard as claustrophobic - limited number of characters cooped up together in an unchanging location - however, this started on TV, I was too lazy to change channels and as the story moved along I got hooked and watched it right through. To my surprise I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a gentle, unobtrusive film which was relaxing to watch after a hectic day's work. The only thing that put my teeth on edge was Timothy Spall's would-be Irish accent. The reviewer who thought it was OK should have the old ears seen to! As an Irish person I sometimes wish that they wouldn't bother with Irish characters in films at all if non-Irish actors are playing them. It can be too cringe-making. However, that didn't stop me from buying the DVD.
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on 22 May 2012
I put this on and lost myself for its duration. I wasn't sure at first and I thought about turning it off, then I forgot as the film caught me up. Fine, understated acting, beautiful to watch and dark undertones made it a superb film.
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Wealthy Emily Delahunty (Maggie Smith) is traveling on the train to Milan when a bomb explodes in her compartment, killing several people. The survivors - an elderly British General, a young German man, an 8-year old American girl, and Emily - recover in the same hospital and, having nowhere to go, go to live with Emily in her large home in Umbria. The four enjoy their life together until the day that Emily's withdrawn uncle (Chris Cooper) comes to take her away.

This-made-for-HBO movie had all the right ingredients to make a memorable film except one - a good script. Nothing much happens in the movie after the explosion, the quartet just luxuriates in living the good life in an elegant villa. The only character that is developed is that of Emily, and Maggie Smith gives her usual first-rate performance and is truly fascinating. But she's hampered by a plot that goes nowhere; it just wanders aimlessly looking like an Italian travelogue and then ends. The scenery is, of course, breathtaking and Smith wears a very chic wardrobe, but we have no reason to care about the characters. There is no drama or tension; the whole story proceeds in such a lackadaisical fashion that I wanted to quit watching, but hoped (in vain) that it was all leading to something worthwhile. Disappointing.
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Lovely film about relationships and feelings. When a bomb explodes in a railway carriage ( and the explosion is very well done to maximize the effect without being horrific ) Maggie Smith's character offers shelter to the three victims in her house in Umbria where her imagination and their personalities have a profound effect on all their lives. Beautiful scenery and moral lessons abound.
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on 13 July 2016
This BBC movie, strongly cast and beautifully filmed, takes the darkest edge off William Trevor's 1991 novella but still preserves a focus on the important questions it raises about how to make a life after trauma -- in this case an explosion in a train carriage in Italy that robs an old man of his children, a young American girl of her parents, and a young man of his lover. The three survivors of these losses are invited by the only other survivor, Emily Delahunty (Maggie Smith), to recuperate at her house in Umbria. The most apparently obviously traumatized is the young girl Aimee (Emily Clarke), who doesn't speak for a long time after the event, and the driver of the narrative interest is the arrival of her uncle, Thomas Riversmith (Chris Cooper), who clearly doesn't know her and was not on good terms with her mother, his sister, but who feels the pull (or is it a drag?) of family obligation and has come to take her back to America. I won't give away how all this is resolved in the movie -- it differs a bit from the novella -- but I'll just note that the thematic heart of the movie is the conflict between Emily, who is a highly-successful writer of second rate romantic novels (under several noms-de-plumes), and Thomas, who is an academic scientist whose field is ants.

The thematic interest, then, is on the question of the need for imagination and, going along with that, re-invention, as a restorer and preserver of health and sanity. As the movie goes on, we begin to understand that Emily herself is a living embodiment of imaginative self-reinvention, and Maggie Smith, in a very fine performance, does Trevor's story justice in letting us see how close together are those elements of imagination that are life-enhancing and those that seem something close to obsessive or crazy. Against that stands Thomas, acting out of duty and resisting Emily's every blandishment. To the credit of both, neither tries to turn Aimee against the other. Chris Cooper is excellent too, as are Benno Fuhrmann as Werner (the young man who lost his lover), Ronnie Barker as the old General, Timothy Spall as Emily's friend and business manager, and in a cameo, Giancarlo Giannini, as the police inspector who is seeking to get at what lies behind the explosion. By the end, we know -- but it's the Cooper-Smith dynamic that holds our attention throughout.
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on 12 May 2016
Odd, meandering tale with no real conclusion and several plotlines left unfinished. It does improve upon a second watch. Some good acting, particularly from the charming Ronnie Barker, but no tangible character development and, despite many interludes of philosophical musing from Dame Maggie, the message of the film is vague and undefined. There are several unsavoury sub-plots, although they are more suggested than outright depicted.
The setting however is flawless. Some truly beautiful shots of Italian architecture, apricot sunshine and the fields and flower gardens of Umbria. If, like me, you want to give this film a try because you enjoy other films set in Umbrian/Tuscan landscape, or you're seeking some hazy late-summer style escapism, then it's worth a watch. But if you're looking for a cohesive, engaging plot, give it a miss.
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