Helena Bonham Carter
Maggie Smith
Denholm Elliot
Julian Sands
Simon Callow
Judi Dench
Daniel Day-Lewis
Rosemary Leach
Rupert Graves

James Ivory

"It is fate, but call it Italy if it pleases you, Vicar."
Time: 117 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Drama/Romance

Won Academy Award for Best Art Direction, Costume Design and Adapted Screenplay. Nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Smith), Supporting Actor (Elliot), Cinematography, Director and Best Picture.
SYNOPSIS: Lucy Honeychurch, a young Englishwoman, makes her first visit to Florence, Italy in the early 1900's. There, she meets a quiet yet eccentric young man named George Emerson. Upon her return to England, Lucy must decide whether to follow through with her marriage to her stotic fiance, Cecil, or follow her heart and her growing attraction to George.

BOTTOM LINE: This is one of those films where everything comes together to create a magical experience that never grows old. The lushness of the visuals, the beauty of the music and the emotional complexity of the story, make this a romance that engages the viewer on every level. The constrictions of the time period – both social and physical – only make the unlikely connection between Lucy and George all the more powerful. Of couse, the fact that they meet in Italy doesn't hurt. Carter is perfectly cast as Lucy, giving our herione more than just a pretty face, but intelligence, humor and passion underneath her demure and proper demeanor. Her sense of self is stronger than it first appears, allowing her to make appropriate, if unconventional choices for her life.

Unlike many romances, this one actually gives the two men fighting for her hand somewhat equal treatment. Granted, once we meet Cecil, who's played deliciously priggish by Day-Lewis, the contest, despite his wealth and respect of Lucy, is effectively over. Sure, she'd be comfortable, but there's more to marriage than nice clothes and a big house. If she never saw George again, settling for life with Cecil wouldn't seem so bad. Despite his brooding nature, Sands brings an undeniable energy to the proceedings, making George's quiet intelligence and zeal for life quite irresistable. Both characters are initially surprised by their intense connection and try to deny it, yet both are smart enough to realize a love like theirs doesn't come around everyday, especially in a world of arranged marriages.

It's a long, quirky trip for our lovers filled with some of the best character actors around. Dench, Smith, Elliot and Callow are staples of the British film scene for a very good reason. They amply entertain in between the romance, giving the youths and the audience a moment to catch their breath. They all realize long before Lucy and George what's happening and attempt to help them get together in their own little ways. If the story wasn't so well-composed they would almost steal the show. King of the literary, drawing-room adaptation, James Ivory crafts a flawless piece of cinema without a false note in any frame. It's one of the few films that captures my complete attention and touches my heart no matter how many times I've seen it before. Unlike many of the film's in this genre, the art direction and cinematography open up the story and give it a timeless quality that breaks it out of the usual British mode. A classic and classy film that deserves more than one look.