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Film Title

A Month by the Lake

Director

John Irvin

Starring

  • Vanessa Redgrave as Miss Bentley
  • Edward Fox as Major Wilshaw
  • Uma Thurman as Miss Beaumont
  • Alessandro Gassman as Vittorio Balsari

A lush, beautifully charming romantic drama set in 1930’s Italy, A Month by the Lake is a perfectly agreeable movie that allows you to spend time with a starry cast in gorgeous locations.

Miss Bentley is a lively spinster who has visited Lake Como every year for sixteen years. It is 1937 and talk of war is in the air, plus she is there without her father who has passed away. The place has changed, she observes and her loneliness is felt. Thankfully a distraction comes in the shape of the proud and stuffy bachelor Major Wilshaw, who at first is distant because of how assertive and spirited she is. But he is won over by her enthusiasm for life and lightening up, begins to enjoy his stay. This looks like the makings of romance for two people who haven’t has the best of luck when it comes to relationships of the heart. Yet the bratty and unsettled young nanny for a nearby family Miss Beaumont begins to stir things through a cavalier gesture that has the Major believing she genuinely cares for him. Miss Bentley notices this and is perturbed at Miss Beaumont’s conduct, as she deeply feels for the Major. But while Miss Beaumont enjoys her little games and teasing, Miss Bentley proves just as good at playing games of her own. At the same time, a younger Italian man takes a romantic interest in Miss Bentley, which plays right into her hands. All of this ultimately leads to more seriousness for all involved in the romantic entanglement.

John Irvin is behind the camera here and his observant direction is simple and flowing. He doesn’t bring any tricks to the table, but then again A Month by the Lake is not a tale that requires extensive stylistic choices to tell its story. This is a film with a light and airy charm, yet still revealing a slyness and somewhat more serious side to the tale. Humour has a place here, with dry and wry occurrences arising from misunderstanding and the great way that the characters are in a spinning roundabout of actions centred on desires of the heart. In the second half of the picture, the romantic tug of war becomes a lot more serious and dramatic, as the true extent of feelings finally become known. This change is handled admirably by the script and direction, exuding a little bit more emotion than was to be expected from such a film. Although breezy is a word that comes to mind, A Month by the Lake contains some genuine gravitas and melancholy that are pretty hard to miss within the framework of everything. The gorgeousness of Lake Como is visible in almost every frame; creating a heavenly setting for loves to blossom and for life to flourish in the days leading up to the Second World War. It’s like an elegant chocolate box of visual pleasures for the eyes as the setting is perfectly brought to life. Things can get muddled within the story and more than a few times a little bit of laziness creeps in, but the main buoyancy of A Month by the Lake is enough of a distraction from those particular flaws. The score is gentle and earnest; complimenting the feeling of having fun while there is still time for those lazy days in the sun to treasure in the memory.

Heading proceedings is the willowy and immensely radiant Vanessa Redgrave. Full of vitality, spirit and heart, her Miss Bentley is a character who sweeps you up in her outgoing and vivacious lust for life. Redgrave fully captures everything about this woman with her gift for suggestion and expressive face both tools in conveying the need for love this woman yearns for after the loss of her father. As usual, Redgrave provides a beautiful air of energy and charisma to her role that truly makes it something beautiful. Edward Fox has the right amount of dignity, cockiness and sadness for the part of Major. There is a real elegance and contrasting humour and pathos in Fox’s work that simply put is something special. Uma Thurman provides a counterbalance to Redgrave’s elegance and subtlety with a strong performance as petulant and callous Miss Beaumont. Knowing how pretty she is, she thinks nothing of toying with affection, largely stemming from boredom and a stifled upbringing. Thurman brings out the vixen in the part and how immature Miss Beaumont is, a brave thing to do as she isn’t afraid to be unlikable in the role. Alessandro Gassman is the handsome man whose romantic longings for Miss Bentley allow her to level the playing field.

A breezy gem of a movie that can also conjure up pathos, A Month by the Lake is a pleasant enough way to spend an hour or two of your time. With humour, romance and sublime scenery(plus an elegant cast), its easy-going but engaging which is often just what the doctor ordered.