Enchanted April (1991) is a beautiful, perfect, engrossing movie. It sounds small: four Englishwomen rent a castle in Italy for a month in the 1920s, and are transformed by “Italy.” But it’s surprisingly touching and moving, and if you haven’t given yourself the present of luxuriating in this film, do it now!
There are four main characters: Lottie (Josie Lawrence) is a somewhat flowery middle-class housewife, while Rose (Miranda Richardson) works tirelessly for the poor and is ignored by her romance-novelist husband. The two hatch the plan to rent the house, then along comes Mrs. Fisher (Joan Plowright), a cranky older woman who lives in the past, and Caroline (Polly Walker), a gorgeous socialite who is bored of society. All four want something MORE, and the more they find is their own inner selves as well as connection with each other — and, surprisingly, some men! Speaking of which, Alfred Molina and Jim Broadbent play husbands, while cutie Michael Kitchen is the property owner.
The costumes were designed by Sheena Napier (Howards End 2017, Galavant, Parade’s End, Ballet Shoes, The Heart of Me, The Turn of the Screw), and she was justifiably nominated for an Oscar for her work on this film. Sadly I can’t find any interviews or commentary by her on the film, but there is an interesting recap of a talk she did talking about her career on the now-defunct Damn, That’s Some Fine Tailoring courtesy of Internet Archive.
When the film begins, Lottie and Rose are pinched, worn, and beaten down by the greyness of life in London. Their wardrobe reflects this, being mostly browns and blacks, although Napier includes some great details, particularly on the hats:
Lady Caroline is a shock of red and purple, and at first you share Lottie and Rose’s awe at her glamour:
When they get to Italy, everything warms up and relaxes. Everyone’s wardrobe starts including more color, and the hair sometimes even comes down:
Are we worthy of such a wonderful film as Enchanted April?