My House in Umbria (2003)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Chris Cooper and Maggie Smith in My House in Umbria

Tea and Grappa with Mrs. Delahunty

"My House in Umbria" is a beautiful movie, it captures the scenery of Umbria magnificently, the hustle & bustle of an Italian town magnificently, the acting is beautiful and the mix of drama and comedy is also beautiful. But despite all this beauty and magnificence I am split as to how I feel because I actually don't really get "My House in Umbria", I don't really get the story. Actually that's a lie I did get the storyline as it seems to grow from one thing to another feeling a bit like a murder mystery before becoming a very different drama, it just didn't really keep me interested. Thankfully all those other things, the comedy, the beauty of Umbria and the wonderful performances especially from Maggie Smith as Mrs. Delahunty did.

Having been involved in a bomb blast aboard a train, romantic novelist Mrs. Delahunty (Maggie Smith - Tea with Mussolini) invites the other 3 survivors to convalesce at her home in Umbria where she lives alone with the exception of some helpers and Quinty (Timothy Spall - The Damned United) who manages her affairs. Despite being very different people Mrs Delahunty and the survivors The General (Ronnie Barker), Werner (Benno F├╝rmann) and orphaned American Aimee (Emmy Clarke) bond as a family. But that all changes when Aimee's Uncle Tom (Chris Cooper - The Bourne Identity) arrives from America to take her back much to Mrs. Delahnuty's annoyance and it doesn't help that Inspector Girotti (Giancarlo Giannini) is snooping around trying to discover who was behind the bombing.

Ronnie Barker and Maggie Smith in My House in Umbria

As already mentioned I didn't like the actual storyline to "My House in Umbria" and the reason is that it appears to flutter from one thing to another without any real point. It starts with the bomb on the train which manoeuvres itself so that Mrs. Delahunty ends up playing host to the 3 other survivors whilst Inspector Girotti investigates. And so you think that maybe this will be something with a touch of the Agatha Christie about it as Girotti talks to the survivors and with Mrs. Delahunty being a writer trying to work out why they were targeted in the terrorist attack.

Now that is all fine except it then changes focus as the survivors become a rather unique family unit, looking out for each other, which to be honest is very nice, very charming and often amusing. But then it changes focus again as the young girl Aimee's Uncle comes to take her back to America causing Miss Delahunty to try and seduce him as deep down she feels Aimee would be better staying with them. All off which is very easy to follow but it doesn't seem to really focus on anything, ambling along between the stories as Inspector Girotti occasionally shows up whilst Mrs. Delahunty is a friend to The General and flirts with Aimee's Uncle and frets over Werner.

The thing is that the focus of "My House in Umbria" is really Mrs. Delahunty how she finds a purpose when she cares for her visitors and looks at them as a family, filling in for what has been missing from her life. And so when Uncle Tom shows up to take Aimee back to the States she immediately dislikes him and hits the bottle leading to her then to try and seduce him in the hope that either he wont return or leave Aimee with her. But it just seems to be lacking something and whilst its fun at the way that Mrs. Delahunty uses her imagination to paint a picture of all the people in her life especially Uncle Tom who she thinks won't really care for Aimee it just doesn't really grip you. And again it all just seems to float along meandering from one episode, one scene to the next with no real impetus.

Despite this "My House in Umbria" is a beautiful movie be it the wonderful shots of Umbria or the styling which leads to an almost ambiguity to when it is set. It looks and at times feels like this is a movie from just after the war but then there will be something which brings it closer to the present and this ambiguity adds to it's charm. If a movie was great for just being beautiful then "My House in Umbria" would be a great movie.

What also helps "My House in Umbria" is the acting from all those involved be it the insecurity of Aimee following the accident through to Ronnie Barker who manages to play The General straight yet be amusing through his own eccentricities. But it is Maggie Smith as Mrs. Delahunty who really grabs your attention with this mix of an eccentric woman living in Italy who has a very creative imagination whilst also with her own insecurities. It means that you warm to Mrs. Delahunty as she looks after all those who stay with her yet thanks to the way she feels about people we feel the same. So when she despises Uncle Tom and his wife we never meet we feel the same because she feels so passionately about her feelings yet still warm to her when she drunkenly tries to seduce him.

What this all boils down to is that "My House in Umbria" is a movie which splits me because I love the beauty of it, the quirkiness of the characters and the stunning scenic shots of Umbria. But then the actual storyline whilst not complex fails to really grab me as it sort of ambles along from one thing to another. Thankfully it is made all the greater by Maggie Smith who is just wonderful as Mrs. Delahunty allowing us to warm to this imaginative woman who takes us through this ambling story.