Mary (Scott Thomas) is a penniless young widow staying in a borrowed villa on the outskirts of Florence. In her desperate state, she is about to accept the marriage proposal of Sir Edgar, an older British diplomat (Fox). This delights the society lynchpin and gossip Princess San Fernando (Bancroft), an American who married rather well herself. Then while Edgar's away the princess introduces Mary to her friend Rowley (Penn), and Mary starts thinking about her future--and about love. Then an act of kindness toward a poor refugee (Davies) plunges her life into chaos and draws the interest of the local police chief/Nazi sympathiser (Ghimi).
As Mary's entire life is called into question, her conscience won't let her just get on with things as they were ... and Scott Thomas plays the role very well (no surprise there). And the other characters are just as intriguing, hinting at internal motivations, frailties and deceptions. Husband-wife team Belinda and Philip Haas craft the film very carefully, with a beautiful production design that feels nicely offhanded, while keeping the story just a step ahead of expectations. Even so, there's nothing terribly revolutionary about this film. Despite all the historical and personal intrigue, it's essentially just another well-made period romance.
[12--adult themes] 29.Feb.00
UK release 14.Apr.00; US release 12.May.00
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