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My House in Umbria
My House in Umbria
Actors: Maggie Smith, Ronnie Barker, Chris Cooper, Benno Fürmann, Giancarlo Giannini
Director: Richard Loncraine
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense
UR     2003     1hr 43min

Based on the acclaimed novel by William Trevor, My House in Umbria is a charming, evocative drama about a group of travelers in Italy who find solace and friendship after being thrown together by tragedy.


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Movie Details

Actors: Maggie Smith, Ronnie Barker, Chris Cooper, Benno Fürmann, Giancarlo Giannini
Director: Richard Loncraine
Creators: Marco Pontecorvo, Ann Wingate, Frank Doelger, Marco Valerio Pugini, Robert Allan Ackerman, Hugh Whitemore, William Trevor
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, All Made-for-TV Movies, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Hbo Home Video
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 11/25/2003
Original Release Date: 05/25/2003
Theatrical Release Date: 05/25/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 43min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English, Italian, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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Member Movie Reviews

Reviewed on 12/26/2023...
Not good.
Sharon F. (Shar) from AVON PARK, FL
Reviewed on 6/22/2023...
I liked the meshing of personalities of this embracing story. I do have to say, though, it moves along rather slowly to develop each character. It just proves that you don't have to be alike to be friends and get along.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Reviewed on 5/12/2017...
Alan Bennett, hunh? I really enjoyed this suitably eccentric character study, but should probably prewarn anyone looking for 'Enchanted April'-type fare that this character study is almost brutal in its lack of sentimentality, making the film all the more effective as the gorgeous Italian rustic countryside exists in its own pungent reality in opposition to the terrorism, both literal and metaphorical, of the distant urban world. This film should give your emotions an overtime workout. Dame Maggie Smith is riveting as an aging alcoholic romance novelist, Contessa Dalahanty, with a scandalous past as both an escort and a mistress. Well coiffed and coutoured, she is, nevertheless, not even slightly elegant, and, despite a persona of immaculate, booze-fueled 'honesty,' somehow always manages to have lipstick on her teeth. Her performance, especially when she's placed in opposition to Chris Cooper's stuffed-shirt Yankee academic opportunist is nakedly brilliant. The plot involves a surprise terrorist bombing, this-and-that bla bla-bla, but really is just a vehicle for Dame Mags to plumb the depths of her depression as she drinks like a sailor on leave, obsessing on her old age, the realities of decrepitude, the prime of her sexuality long gone. If Smith is impressive, it may be because the film's director, Richard Longcraine, seems to have pulled a kind of unique kind of relaxed performance out of the whole brilliantly cast vehicle. Next to Cooper, the German actor Benno Fürmann(star of the brilliant 'North Face' (2007) as Werner, the young German terrorist is surprisingly soulful. The Contessa becomes deeply attached to a young orphaned girl and although the plot fools you into believing that emotional bonding can supersede ties of blood, is kind of wishy-washy and neither here nor there until we realize that the true love affair here is the platonic one between Smith and her personal Man Friday/Concierge/Servant/Irish stud, expertly performed by the perrless Timothy Spall with a supremely charming North Dublin accent. A fine film, but not for the 'Masterpiece Theater' crowd. Last, but not least, for mention is the barbed, semi-comedic pen of Alan Bennett. My idol as a kid as head writer for the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore satirical T.V. vehicle, 'Beyond the Fringe,' he has gone on to write 'The Madness of king George' and the underrated 'History Boys for stage and screen. 'My House in Umbria' may not be Bennett's masterpiece, but it's a dastardly clever vehicle for Dame Maggie.
2 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Karin M. from CALDWELL, TX
Reviewed on 4/30/2011...
I enjoyed this movie very much and am planning to watch it again at a later time.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

(5 out of 5 stars)

"I saw this lovely film on HBO, and it's to their immense credit that this film was seen at all. This film would never be released by a major studio these days. They are only concerned with huge blockbuster movies, yet anyone who cares about a strong, emotional story, set in gorgeous Umbria and starring Maggie Smith shouldn't miss this gem.Maggie Smith stars as an aging romance novelist living in splendid isolation in her villa in the Umbrian countryside. On a shopping trip, the train she's traveling on is bombed by terrorists. When the dust is settled, Smith, and several of the travelers who shared her compartment, are in the hospital, including a little girl who has lost her parents. Smith generously offers her home as a refuge for the survivors to recuperate. The traumatized little girl can't speak. Smith's heart goes out to her, and she does her best to make her as comfortable as possible. Smith's rather bohemian character, as well as her fondness for cocktails makes her a slightly madcap, tipsy hostess. Rather lonely of late, this unexpected intrusion in her life makes her feel needed. There's a young man with a secret to hide, and an older pensioner who round out the group. Then the little girl's uptight uncle (played with unstated eloquence by Chris Cooper) comes to take custody of his brother's orphaned daughter. Smith is devasted by his coldness, his disapproval, and senses that he simply is taking the girl out of a sense of duty to his brother. I won't give anymore of the plot away. Dame Maggie won a well-deserved Emmy for her superb portrayal of a middle-aged spinster, lonely for love, and with her own tragic past, who finds a purpose in her life in the aftermath of tragedy. The script is superb, the Italian settings and the gorgeous period costumes as well as fine work from a strong cast, make this a memorble viewing experience. Nobody captures loneliness as truthfully as Dame Maggie. She's been doing it throughout her long career, as Rod Taylor's assistant in the bloated VIPs, as the headstrong teacher in THE PRME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE, as the actress nominated for an Oscar in CALIFORNIA SUITE, and countless other memorable screen portraits. Highly recommended."
Maggie's Showcase--For Better or Worse
Pintorini | Saint Louis, Missouri United States | 02/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Writer Alan Bennett has been quoted as saying that we're "lucky to be living in her time." He was talking about Maggie Smith.

Bennett's observation seems a tad bittersweet. Yes, we're lucky to be living in her time because she's fabulous, but also because, unless we happen to catch her live on the West End stage, we aren't likely to see her in much of a leading part, ever. In fact, the noteworthy films in which this two-time Oscar winner has played the principal role basically consist of this made-for-HBO endeavor and *The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie* (1969).

The upshot is that *My House in Umbria* has a tremendous weight to bear--that of a legendary actress's best screen vehicle in thirty-five years. It seems a little unfair to judge it based on whether it's worthy of such a distinction, and I can't help wondering whether this accounts for some of this rather plotless film's, shall we say, generous critical reviews.

Still, the more times I see it--and it speaks volumes when I'm able to watch a movie more than once--the more I appreciate its leisurely, picturesque style, and the more uplifted I feel by its timely and refreshing theme: that of injured survivors being "set free" by their enjoyment of nature and each other.

And, ultimately, I begin to think of this movie as a vehicle worthy of its star, and as one in the recent string of high-quality HBO films that have been so good I've almost wanted to send the company a fan letter. Go, HBO.

We should all learn to forgive
Alane M. Downes | Harpswell, ME United States | 01/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"You can read some of the other reviews to get more of the gist of the plot, but I just want to add that this movie is well worth seeing. This movie should move you. Dame Maggie Smith,portraying an aging romance novelist, is elegant, understated, and honest. She shows in her anguish the depths of her depression as she senses old age coming upon her and her appeal as a woman all but snuffed out. The girl (I don't have her name on hand, unfortunately) who played the child who had lost both her parents in the bomb blast and was still in the early stages of recovery when her uncle wanted to uproot her from her new home in Umbria, was breathtakingly luminous. The young actress plays the part with such sincerity. She does not have much of a speaking role, but she becomes by way of the intermingling of the characters, the focal point of the movie. Her interaction with Mrs. Delahonte (sp?)(Maggie Smith) and with Werner, the young German, is deeply moving.As Mrs. Delahonte (sp?) becomes deeply attached to the young girl and it appears that this relationship will be tragically severed, you realize that the notion of family and emotional bonding is never defined by blood ties alone. The relationship between Mrs. Delahonte and the young girl is beautifully portrayed. This movie is timeless in its message: we all should forgive because we all have something for which we need to be forgiven."