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Up at the Villa
Time Out says
Florence, 1938. Cosseted by the blithe company of Anglo-American expats like Princess San Ferdinando (Bancroft), widowed Mary Panton (Scott Thomas) is barely aware of the rise of fascism, so concerned is she with keeping her head above water in a sea of luxury. A proposal from Sir Edgar (Fox), due to become Governor of Bengal, promises stability, status and security, but a riskier temptation presents itself almost simultaneously when playboy Rowley Flint (Penn) advises her to choose passion instead. To their adaptations of Paul Auster's The Music of Chance and AS Byatt's Angels and Insects, Philip and Belinda Haas brought visual and literary elegance and a welcome, almost perverse quirkiness both in terms of tone and content. Those elements are again present in this intelligent version of Somerset Maugham's novella - except, crucially the perverse quirkiness. Yes, it's engaging and psychologically astute, despite some occasional clunky lines, while the lush Tuscan milieu is counterpointed by a subtle, sustained whiff of complacency and corruption. But somehow it never quite sheds that peculiar blend of predictability and polite discretion that tethers so much period drama. Still, Scott Thomas is as fine as you'd expect, Penn once again steals the laurels and, if you like a decent, undemanding romance, it's quite watchable.