- Josie Lawrence as Lottie Wilkins
- Miranda Richardson as Rose Arbuthnot
- Joan Plowright as Mrs. Fisher
- Polly Walker as Lady Caroline Dester
- Alfred Molina as Mellersh Wilkins
- Jim Broadbent as Frederick Arbuthnot
- Michael Kitchen as George Briggs
A thoroughly captivating period drama, in which a dream vacation for four ladies has each person is changed by the experience, Enchanted April is aptly named and filled with a real feel good factor that is hard to resist.
It is 1920’s London and grey skies and constant rain fill the days. Downtrodden housewife Lottie Wilkins desires a change of scenery for a while as she is married to solicitor Mellersh, who rarely pays her any attention and London depresses her. She meets a neighbour, Rose Arbuthnot, to whom she has never spoken and sees that she also is in a not to different situation. Yet Rose is a woman who has become so used to being subservient to her husband that the idea of a holiday appears to be just a dream. Yet she is soon won over by Lottie’s insistence and good nature, and soon the women grow friendly and plan a getaway. The location is an Italian castle on the shores of the Mediterranean for the month of April. The two jump into this as a way to escape the dreary lives they lead and take the chance. In order to split the expenses, Lottie and Rose put out an advertisement for two others to join their impromptu adventure. The two people they take on are the haughty and disapproving Mrs. Fisher and beautiful but restless socialite Lady Caroline Dester, who wants to get away from her social circles. Once at the exotic castle, the four of them set apart attempting to relax and unwind, though it isn’t always that simple. The ladies are at first at odds with each other, yet over time they grow closer to each other. A change happens for each of the women over the course of April as the fresh air and surroundings weave a magic spell on all of them. Lottie discovers her own sense of worth, Rose emerges from her insular shell to become a vivacious and confident lady, Mrs Fisher’s waspish attitude is minimalised as she lightens up and Caroline gets a sense of contentment from the castle. It appears that the place has some unusual ability to transform those there and generally for the best in this luscious movie.
Mike Newell has a sensitive edge to his direction that brings the characters and settings to life admirably. The whole strangers going on holiday and changing genre has been done a million times, but Enchanted April is one of the better films of its kind thanks to the script and aforementioned direction from the great Newell. There is subtlety at work in Enchanted April that suits the slow, sunny days in which the quartet evolve as people due to the change in location and free from the pressures of life. Some people may say that not a great deal happens, when quite a lot occurs just in a mature and measured way as opposed to something majorly overt. I like this approach in a movie, especially something like this that allows for depth and nuance. A good touch is having some of the thoughts of the women play out as monologues when they’re alone and left to contemplate the impact of change on them. The locations are gorgeous to look at and the visual changes pave the way for memorable viewing. From the dour London scenes to the brightly coloured setting of Italy, Enchanted April knows how to twin the colours with the emotions the characters and audience experience. You can take away a warm and fuzzy feeling from this film, that at least feels genuine and not mawkish or filled schmaltz. Gentle music stunningly underscores the growth of each person as the paradise quietly but noticeably changes them.
Enchanted April gains huge points of greatness from the splendid cast. It’s the ladies who are the most memorable within the film. As the lady who comes up with the idea of the holiday, Josie Lawrence has enough energy and optimism she could practically burst. Playing Lottie as a woman who is bruised but has an effervescent spirit and perceptive ability. Lawrence succeeds as it is impossible not to be won over by her. Miranda Richardson is simply sublime in her part of the saddened and put upon Rose, who discovers a new purpose and love for life once in the Italian surroundings. Richardson is one of those performers who can say so much with her face than most can with heaps of dialogue. She is a moving and luminous presence in this film and not one that is easily forgotten. Stealing all of her scenes is Joan Plowright; essaying the role of a cantankerous old lady who is really quite lonely and regretful behind the entitled surface. She gets all the best lines and her old-fashioned and snobby attitude is a funny thing to view. Yet Plowright knows exactly when to reel in the disapproving glances and acidic remarks to reveal a woman at odds with the world, as it is totally different from the one she grew up in and her morals are now outdated in changing society. As the last part of the female quartet, Polly Walker’s work is stunning and full of kittenish behaviour. At first glance,the part of Caroline could be seen as merely a glamorous one that probably wouldn’t require much in the way of acting. But Polly Walker digs beneath that and thanks to the writing, emerges with a very good performance that opens up the character who just wants to be loved by someone for not just her beauty or money.
Though while the ladies hold a lot of the interest, the men do pretty well too. Alfred Molina and Jim Broadbent excel as two of the husbands who are inattentive to the yet once they visit the paradise are changed significantly. The always reliable Alfred Molina in particular is a highlight as the initially priggish Mellersh, who appears more interested in his job than anything else. Later he is seen displaying a deft humour and surprising sensitivity once his character glimpses how important his wife is to him in the scheme of things. Michael Kitchen has a good part as the owner of the castle who is never seen far from a thick pair of glasses due to having short sight.
A lovely film of gorgeous scenery, subtle drama and nice performances, Enchanted April is just the ticket for a rainy day as you will feel refreshed by it.