My House In Umbria

cast: Maggie Smith, Chris Cooper, Giancarlo Giannini, Ronnie Barker, and Timothy Spall

director: Richard Loncraine

99 minutes (12) 2003
widescreen ratio 16:9
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens

Emily Delahunty (Maggie Smith) is a romantic novelist living in Italy. One day she takes a train, which is blown up by a bomb. She invites her fellow survivors to convalesce at her house in Umbria. They are an elderly British general (Ronnie Barker, coming out of retirement in a straight role), Werner, a young German (Benno Furmann) and a young American girl, Aimee (Emmy Clarke), who has been orphaned by the blast. Soon afterwards, Aimee’s cold uncle (Chris Cooper) arrives, and a few secrets will be out before long…

Based on a novella by William Trevor (which I haven’t read), My House In Umbria was made for Home Box Office but given a cinema release. It has all the elements of a Merchant Ivory production: a literary source, a cast full of distinguished names, and plenty of lush photography of the Italian countryside. But unfortunately these don’t add up to an engaging film. My House in Umbria proceeds at a glacial pace and never establishes a grip. Richard Loncraine pulls off an excellent stylised bomb-blast sequence, but the heat and torpor seem to have leaked into the celluloid of this film. Frankly, it’s a bore.

It certainly looks pretty on DVD though, with an anamorphic transfer in the original ratio of 1.78:1. It sounds fine too, in Dolby digital 5.1 with the surround channels filled with Claudio Capponi’s music score. The only extra is the trailer.