In Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances (Diane Lane) plays a writer who falls into a deep depression after enduring a messy divorce. Heartbroken, Frances struggles to piece her life back together. Her first step on the road to recovery is a visit to Tuscany as part of a gay bus tour booked by her lesbian best friend, Patti (Sandra Oh) and Patti’s lover. The intensity Lane infuses in Frances surges throughout the film. The beginning of the film feels heavy and emotionally hard to bear. It is hard not to feel the weight and darkness of the character’s pain.
After Patti becomes pregnant, Frances is indecisive about whether or not to go on the vacation alone. Acknowledging that she feels displaced in San Francisco, she reluctantly makes her way to Italy. Her apprehension is fierce. As the audience, you sense how deep Frances’ pain has become by the time she arrives in Tuscany. Her smiles are always forced while her eyes are forever downcast.
As the film opens over Tuscany, it feels like taking the first dip into a luxurious bubble bath. Vacationing in Italy with Frances is an eye-opening experience of vivid landscapes. We are overwhelmed with beauty as she is. In fact, Frances is so overtaken by Tuscany that she purchases a centuries old villa (that looks it) on a whim and decides to take up residence. The film follows her as she struggles in her renovations to make it a home.
The smooth, sensual quality of the film is helped along by Lane’s funny voiceovers. Under The Tuscan Sun, originally from a book by Frances Mayes, flows seamlessly like a great novel. And no novel is complete without a cast of colorful characters. Under The Tuscan Sun showcases an overdramatic former actress, a band of Polish workers, many passionate Italians and, of course, Marcello.
Marcello is the stereotypical, sexy as sin Italian man that Frances falls for impulsively. We are enveloped in their infatuation and Frances’ glee. However as the director would have you know, this is not a typical romantic comedy. In Under The Tuscan Sun, Frances is truly meant to come to terms with self-love, a self-love that permeates into her view of the world around her. The film becomes more and more breathtaking as Frances becomes more secure within herself.
While the wonderful characters and the stunning scenery were incredible, it was the emotional experience of Lane’s character that captured my heart. I felt sad with her, shocked with her and fell in love along with her. Rarely have a film or actress made me feel so moved and intrinsically intertwined with a character. Lane’s lovely, witty performance was refreshing. Her chemistry with the ever comical Sandra Oh made Under The Tuscan Sun a delight.
Under The Tuscan Sun is one of the best films I have seen in a long time. I have seen many films, but lost my heart to few. I love this film in the entirety of its ardor. It is a sensitive, magical but amusing journey that will emotionally entangle you and impress upon your heart and soul.
The DVD includes very few features besides audio commentary by the director. One featurette, “Tuscany 101” is a behind-the-scenes look at Tuscany and the film that is not only insightful but clearly defines the work of heart director Audrey Wells wanted this film to be. The deleted scenes are quite comedic but obviously would have deterred from the soft dexterity of the comedy in the film.