Enchanted April

Critics Consensus

Mike Newell's adaptation of Elizabeth von Arnim's moves at a more generous pace than the 1935 version, allowing excellent performances from Miranda Richardson and Joan Plowright to flourish.

84%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 31

83%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,632
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Movie Info

Previously filmed in 1935 with Ann Harding, Enchanted April, a romantic novel by Elizabeth, was remade in 1992. The first film skips along superficially at 66 minutes: the second, directed by the always intriguing Mike Newell, runs 101 minutes, allowing for richer characterizations and a bottomless reserve of brilliant dialogue. Two cloistered, married English women (Josie Lawrence, Miranda Richardson) impulsively rent an Italian villa and embark upon a vacation without their spouses. They are joined by two other ladies: the high-flown aging widow Joan Plowright, and elegant upper-crust beauty Polly Walker) whom they've never met. Under the spell of an exotic new location, the foursome are in for quite a few life-altering experiences, many of them amusing, and not a few very surprising. Impeccably accurate in its recreation of European manners and mores in the 1920s, Enchanted April is sheer bliss from fade-in to fade-out. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Enchanted April

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (9)

  • In a raucous movie summer, this is a film for those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine, and a recollection of a time when women and movies could be purveyors of enchantment.

    May 27, 2011 | Full Review…
  • Strong cast's reliable playing is undercut by a script that dawdles over well-trod territory.

    Jul 6, 2010 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • A sweet pipe dream, Enchanted April won't bear much scrutiny; just bask in it indulgently like a spring sun.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Newsweek
    Top Critic
  • Personalities clash but are cheerfully reconciled, and marital tensions are swiftly resolved.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The ladies are well bred, the scenery is lovely and the dialogue is polished and polite. It helps that the same villa in Portofino where Miss von Armin wrote the novel has been used to fine effect as the film's principal setting.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 3.5/5
  • It would seem from a spate of films lately that the English can only find their warmer, truer selves abroad -- usually in Italy. Enchanted April takes this familiar path, but traipses along with charm and glory, as if for the very first time.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Enchanted April

  • Feb 12, 2013
    I'm not one for the period pieces but I am willing to make an exception for this one. Same old, same old in terms of a story line. Brits abroad in a foreign land but these pairings work and there is gorgeous interplay.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 02, 2012
    Four English ladies rent an Italian villa. The biggest surprise about Enchanted April is that it's not a Merchant/Ivory production. It has all the trappings of such a film with it's understated, often-quotidian conflicts and its focus on setting to provide thematic mood. It's A Room with a View. While I liked A Room with a View, I recognized that the quotidian conflicts don't always provide the matter for compelling drama; the same is true for Enchanted April. The performances by all the actresses are strong, but I was particularly "enchanted" by Polly Walker as the free-spirited Lady Caroline. Overall, if you like Merchant/Ivory's films, then you'll like this film because the differences between these films is negligible. The performances by all the actresses are
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Mar 07, 2012
    The Enchanted April is quirky, full of humour, of misunderstandings, of instances of characters miscommunicating and misjudging one another's intentions. Yet it's also charming and sweet which candidly explores, albeit somewhat lightheartedly, the heartache four women are nursing caused by aging, marital neglect, and the like. Based on the 1921 novel by Elizabeth von Armin, the film centers on Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence), a shabby middle-class wife, blessed with a self-proclaimed magical ability to see into people. When her eyes catch a newspaper ad for a month in an Italian villa, she immediately thinks of her downtrodden neighbor Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson). To save money, two other eccentric femmes join this couple: the haughty widow Mrs. Fisher (Joan Plowright) and the alluring society lady, Caroline Dester (Polly Walker), who is the opposite of all the others. When they wake up in their villa after a rainy nighttime arrival (Britain still seems to follow them like a cloud), they open their windows to a sunny spring morning on the Italian coast, the hills exploding in flowers and foliage, the Mediterranean waters a captivating azure catching the sun with white accents. It's a fairy tale awakening for them in every way. "It's this place," says Lawrence's newly recharged character. Then the film slips into internal monologues to tell us about the transformations the characters are going through and they seem so unnecessary so much of the time, mostly because the observations are already so apparent to the eye. And when the husbands arrive, the old romances are recharged and relationships rekindled with newfound respect and affection, if not for the commitment and compassion and generosity of Mike Newell's direction. It's not about escape or rebirth, it's about renewal and appreciation, with all the restraint we've come to expect in the oh-so-British manner of period movies, but behind that precious romanticism is a genuine commitment to this emotional renewal. This is an earnest movie about personality transformation, self-renewal and life lessons about female camaraderie.
    Cinema F Super Reviewer
  • Oct 02, 2010
    American sensibilities usually go agog when it comes to English country homes and their varied inhabitants, which is why "Downton Abbey" is an iconoclast by itself. This film falls into the genre of hapless women alone in Italy and their various adventures. The so-called adventures of the women in this film are pathetic, short sighted, and at times disappointing. Two of these women are repressed, and depressed, housewives from the rumbling metropolis of London. They're friends, they both wish their husbands cared more about them, and both need to get away from the horrible, rainy weather. Their husbands include a politician and a ghost writer who goes off to parties and socializes with the toast of the city, at times flirting with infidelity. Both husbands are mercifully repulsive, but instead of the women getting away and eventually leaving them, the film celebrates women changing via a vacation to Italy in order to entice their significant others. The film loses any empathy by sticking to its source material ("The Enchanted April" by Elizabeth Von Armin), and pairs together the last remaining singles into couples at the end, just so it can be tied up in a little bow. Even the so-called enchanted countryside is barely shown except for some shots of wisteria and garden paths. Otherwise most of the film is shot within the confines of the Italian castle, also not all that grand. A film's beatific setting can often enchant when the characters do not, but there isn't even a hint of guilty pleasure surrounding this film. It doesn't have the wit of an Austen adaptation or the dramatic setting and tone of a Merchant/Ivory film. It simply lingers on the most boring elements of dialogue, and on characters that don't do anything. Even the surrounding characters, which include a widow who made friends of the elite in literature, a coaxing socialite, and the castle's owner, can't make this film compelling in any way. If you want to watch a bunch of flighty women fighting to be happy, this is for you, but otherwise it doesn't have merit.
    Spencer S Super Reviewer

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