My House In Umbria (DVD)
A train, traveling gently through the rolling hills of the Italian countryside, explodes. In one carriage, there are four survivors: "The General," an elderly English gentleman, Werner, a young German, aimee, an orphaned eight-year old girl, and emily Delahunty, an English novelist who invites them to her home to recuperate. Thrown together by misfortune, they find themselves attempting to rework the torn fabric of their lives, while a concerned police inspector attempts to piece together the events that brought them there. When aimee's straightlaced American uncle arrives to take her away, it shakes an already delicate household to the core. Will the magic of emily's house in Umbria bring happiness to all? or will happiness prove as elusive as the answers to the quesitons that bind them together?
Falling neatly into the Enchanted April
and Under the Tuscan Sun
category, the made-for-HBO My House in Umbria
boasts lovely Italian vistas and comforting Englishness. But it begins with a note of violence: on a train rolling through the sunny countryside, a terrorist bomb detonates, killing a handful of passengers. The strangers that survive recuperate at the villa of an eccentric but kindly romance novelist, also a survivor of the blast. She's played by Maggie Smith, who bustles through the role with a pleasing mix of gin and daffodils. Chris Cooper is an uptight American who comes to the villa to pick up his orphaned niece and bristles at the bohemian atmosphere. Director Richard Loncraine maintains the melancholy mood amidst the sun-dappled gardens of Umbria, but Smith really holds the film together with her authority and slightly tipsy humor. --Robert Horton