“Enchanted April” is indeed an enchanting story set in Portofino, Italy in 1920. It has been adapted for the screen from a 1922 novel entitled “The Enchanted April,” written by Elizabeth von Arnim. At the monthly meeting of the Nightingale Women’s Club in London, Lottie Wilkins (Josie Lawrence) picks up a newspaper and notices an ad that reads: “Small Medieval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let Furnished for the month of April.” As she ponders over the lovely thought, she sees that Rose Arbuthnot (Miranda Richardson) is looking at the same newspaper ad. The two have never met formally; still, Lottie approaches Rose and suggests that they go in together and rent the Castle for the month of April. At first, Rose declines but soon changes her mind.
Miranda Richardson - Wikimedia
A Month in Italy
Lottie is married to Mellersh Wilkins (she never liked her married name) who pays her little heed, except to point out that the fresh flowers she just bought are an unnecessary expense and she should not do it again. A month away from Mellersh (Alfred Molina) would be a welcome respite for her.
Before Lottie has an opportunity to mention her plans, Mellersh announced that he wanted the two of them to take a vacation in Italy. Lottie is aghast, and made up the story that a friend of hers had invited her to spend the month of April at a castle called San Salvatore in Portofino, Italy at no expense to her. Mellersh is shocked and insists that she should not go.
Rose’s husband, Frederick (Jim Broadbent), is also indifferent towards his wife while he produces off-color novels under the assumed name of George Arundel. He also likes to flirt with young women. He agrees to Rose’s plan to spend April in Italy because he will be busy with book-signings and selling his book, and is already planning another book entitled “Theodora, the Slave Princess.”
Lottie and Rose start planning their trip, and decide that they should advertise for two more ladies to join them to cut down on their expenses. Only two candidates reply, and they are forced to accept the two respondents.
Joan Plowright - Wikimedia Commons
Mrs. Fisher (portrayed by Joan Plowright) is an older widowed lady, set in her ways and used to having her own way. Dame Joan Plowright is an English actress who was married to Lawrence Olivier up to the time of his death, and is the mother of their three children.
The fourth member of their quartet is Lady Caroline Dester (Polly Walker), a beautiful, young, and wealthy girl who is weary of fending off the advances of the young men who constantly accost her, inflicting unwanted attention upon her. She is happy to go to a place where no one knows any of her acquaintances and she can get some rest. Coincidentally, Lady Caroline’s mother hosted a book-signing for George Arundel (Frederick) and became enamored that day with Lady Caroline who rebuffed him.
The Four Get Acquainted
San Salvatore and its surroundings, directly on the Mediterranean Sea, are indeed enchanting and the four females, far from the restraints of their normal life, are lulled into the peace and beauty of their April home. They each have a room with two beds, and a fifth bedroom is unoccupied. Lottie, oddly, misses Mellersh and decides to ask him to come; he could have the fifth room. Mrs. Fisher objects, since she had planned to ask her lady friend, Kate Lumley, to join her and would need the room for her friend. Mrs. Fisher has already alienated the other three due to her haughty personality. She claims to know personally several poets and authors who visited their home when she was a child. Alfred Lord Tennyson, Thomas Carlyle, Dante Rossetti, and the novelist George Meredith were some of the names that she dropped.
Lottie encourages Rose to write to her husband, Frederick, inviting him to join her at this idyllic place which could only serve to rekindle a dying romance. Rose agonizes over her decision, and finally gets a letter off to Frederick.
Alfred Molina - Wikimedia
Lottie’s Husband Arrives
Mellersh shows up and Lottie is overjoyed. Of course, he stays in Lottie’s room and the two are affected by the romantic atmosphere in which they find themselves. There is some discussion about the bills owed by the four ladies, and Lady Caroline agrees to make the payment. Mellersh was present at the discussion so Lottie had to confess to him that she used her nest egg to come. Mellersh told Lottie he will pay for Lottie’s stay; her nest egg need not be touched.
Rose receives a telegram, but it is from George Briggs, the owner of the estate, saying that he will stop off at the chateau on his way to Rome. Mr. Briggs is attracted to Rose, believing that she is a widow. Of course the ladies offer him the fifth bedroom if he wishes to stay a while. Lady Caroline at this point seems attracted to him as he is such a gentleman.
While the group has gathered together outdoors, someone asks Mr. Briggs to relate the legendary story of the Oleander tree where they are sitting. He says that his father wanted an Oleander tree in that very place, so he put his walking stick in the ground to mark the spot. Lo and behold, the walking stick eventually grew leaves and it became the Oleander tree under which they sat.
Jim Broadbent - Wikimedia
Rose’s Husband Arrives
As Lady Caroline was heading toward the house, she spotted George Arundel (Frederick) who followed her to Italy without her knowledge. She excused herself to get ready for dinner and Rose, who had a date with Mr. Briggs to go off and see the sights, came upon Frederick snoring in a chair. “I’m so glad you came,” she said. Mr. Briggs entered and saw them embracing, and Rose introduced her husband to him. Frederick’s eyes were opened, especially when he sensed that Briggs was interested in his wife.
Mrs. Fisher’s Walking Stick
Briggs is disappointed that he had mistaken Rose to be a widow. Nonetheless, as the group took a walk down to the sea later, Lady Caroline took him by the arm and they walk down together. I loved the ending which is in no way a spoiler: Mrs. Fisher, who has used a walking stick during all her time at San Salvatore, sticks her walking stick into the ground as she walks down to the sea with the group. In the last scene, we witness the walking stick growing leaves, and of course it is now an Oleander tree.
Joan Plowright and Miranda Richardson both received a Golden Globe for their roles in this lovely tale entitled “Enchanted April.”