Release Date: 21st June 1991
Director: Charles Sturridge
Writer: Tim Sullivan, Derek Granger & Charles Sturridge
Producer: Derek Granger
Executive Producer: Nick Elliott, Jeffrey Taylor & Kent Walwin
Runtime: 1hr 54mins
Recently widowed and anxious to escape the clutches of her oppressively meddlesome in-laws, free-spirited Lilia Herriton travels to the hillside Tuscan town of Monteriano with her young friend Caroline Abbott. There she falls in love with both the countryside and Gino Carella, a handsome man considerably younger and much less wealthy than herself, and she decides to stay. Appalled by her behaviour and concerned about the future of her granddaughter, Irma, her strait-laced mother-in-law dispatches her son Philip to Italy to convince her to return home, but by the time he arrives Lilia and Gino have wed. He and Caroline return home, unable to forgive themselves for not putting an end to what they see as a clearly unsuitable marriage.
Lilia is startled to discover her desire for independence is at odds with Gino’s need to be the unquestioned head of the household, and she is shocked when he becomes physically abusive in order to clarify his position. Their relationship becomes less volatile when Lilia becomes pregnant, but she dies in childbirth, leaving her grieving husband with an infant son to raise with the help of his ageing mother.
When word of Lilia’s death reaches England, Caroline decides to return to Italy to save the boy from what surely will be a difficult life. Not wanting to be outdone, or considered any less moral or less concerned than Caroline for the child’s welfare, Lilia’s mother-in-law sends Philip and his priggish spinster sister Harriet to Monteriano to obtain custody of the infant and bring him back to Sawston, where he can receive what she perceives to be a proper upbringing and education. Everything about the journey – especially the heat, the uncomfortable accommodations, and her difficulty communicating with the locals – distresses repressed and xenophobic Harriet, but Philip and Caroline both begin to find themselves attracted to everything Tuscan that had appealed to Lilia. Philip and Caroline also begin to sympathise with Gino and his loving relationship with his son, but though Philip says he ‘understands everyone’, he vacillates to even broach the subject of getting custody of the boy to Gino. Philip can’t seem to settle it, and do the ‘right thing’, as Caroline reminds him. Harriet is left to take matters into her own hands and makes a decision that leads to tragic consequences.
Rupert Graves…as Philip Herriton
Helena Bonham Carter…as Caroline Abbott
Judy Davis…as Harriet Herriton
Giovanni Guidelli…as Gino Carella
Helen Mirren…as Lilia Herriton
Barbara Jefford…as Mrs. Herriton
Sophie Kullmann…as Irma