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Enchanted April - arthouse and international DVD / drama DVD / romantic comedy DVD review
ENCHANTED APRIL Unrated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 5 stars
Featuring: Josie Lawrence, Miranda Richardson, Alfred Molina, Joan Plowright, Polly Walker
Director: Mike Newell   Distributor: Miramax
DVD release: 05 May 2009   Runtime: 95 minutes
(1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - English), Subtitles (English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish), Commentary (dir. Mike Newell and prod. Ann Scott)

The perfect holiday is a dream most individuals fantasize about in an effort to escape the realities of their existence. Whether the day-to-day motions and emotions filling life are satisfactory, drab, exciting or difficult, the desire to escape from everyone and everything is a familiar force to everyone at some point in time. Enchanted April is such a dream made real for four very different women looking for a month of suspended time to reflect and nurture their hearts, bodies, and souls without regard for any other living being - a month in which to just "be" for themselves in the enchanted escape of a secluded Italian castle where finding their souls may be much easier than they ever thought possible.

Josie Lawrence, Miranda Richardson, Polly Walker, and Joan Plowright are a magnificent quartet on the silver screen, bringing alive the diametrically opposed characters who embark on soul-searching journeys within the enchanted castle's romantic bounds. Lottie (Lawrence) and Rose (Richardson) are unhappy wives married to inattentive, uninterested, career and self-absorbed husbands. The dolor of English life and weather in combination with the unending listlessness of their marriages emboldens them to answer an advertisement for the renting of an Italian castle for the month of April. Due to the extreme cost of the holiday, the ladies find two additional companions to join them: Caroline (Walker), an emotionally tangled socialite, and Mrs. Fisher (Plowright), a wealthy widow whose connection with the dead in her life is greater than the living.

Upon their arrival in Italy, they find the air simmering with the unusual blend of society ranks and personality differences. The intoxicating atmosphere of the Italian castle can only bring a new freshness and lightness to the hardened and nearly broken souls who have limped there from England. Each woman, hiding away in her own quiet corners of the castle's grounds, finds an inner peace, relaxation, and ability to reflect on the chains keeping her trapped in stagnation and unable to find joy and fulfillment in the blessings she has been given. Much sooner than expected, the optimist and true seer into other's souls, Lottie, identifies within herself that she can only expect from her life, and her husband, what she gives out. The common revelation that one must do unto others as one wishes to have done unto them is apropos to Lottie's self-discovery and leads to her decision to include her husband in the taste of heaven that this holiday brings to her life.

The other characters show a more tepid ability in identifying the gaping wounds within them. Lottie's uncanny insight into their souls does wonders for getting their minds and hearts moving on the right track toward self-realization and healing. The enchanted romanticism of the Italian castle seems to help the visiting souls release the burdens that have been slowly killing them, and to again feel truly alive and youthful within the core of their beings. Rediscovery of the self at such an emotionally enlightened time invigorates so many aspects of their lives, from old joys and hobbies to falling in love all over again with the person one's heart was given to in marriage years before.

For the women and other visiting additions to the Italian castle by the end of April, the burdens of yesterday have finally been shed and the blessings of today embraced with fullness of heart and soul. Although they are passing back into life and the routines of "what was" that instigated the need for this holiday, the horizons of today and tomorrow are now whiter, softer, and brighter than any they could have hoped for before.

The imagery throughout the film is breathtaking in intensity and vibrance. The actors are perfection in their unique roles that required such an honest embodiment of character to be believable. Such a plot is not difficult for viewers to put themselves into, yet the skill with which the individual storylines are delivered and the various segues mixed and mingled demonstrate how masterfully the director reels in even the most obstinate of viewers. Many a movie should be so lucky to be graced with the breathtaking scenery that dominates the visual background of a majority of the scenes. There can only be continued and unwavering praise for this multiple 1992 Academy Award-nominated film.
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reviewed by Sonia R. Polinsky
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