A Month By The Lake Review
By Christopher Null
Take a base of Enchanted April, a little of Il Postino, maybe some Mediterraneo, throw them together, and what do you get? A mess, to be sure, and I'm guessing it the result is something like A Month By the Lake, John Irvin's new film about two star-crossed lovers who find romance in their "golden years."
Vanessa Redgrave and Edward Fox play the leads of Miss Beaumont and Major Paulo, aging British singles who vacation at a lake in 1937 Italy, just before World War II. The pair soon discover each other: She is a headstrong photographer. He is a crusty businessman who dabbles in sleight-of-hand. Clearly, they are meant for each other, and a love/hate relationship develops on the spot. As the romance progresses, the two abuse and play off each other's insecurities so well, you'd think they really were a couple. When youngsters Miss Bentley (Uma Thurman) and Vittorio enter the picture and complicate matters, the film becomes a game of sly cat and mouse, where you never know who is chasing after whom.
The fundamental problem is that A Month By the Lake is supposed to be a romance, but the emotions of love are dreadfully lacking from all the players, probably because Trevor Bentham's spare script doesn't provide any room for these feelings. As far as I could tell, the supreme act that pushes Miss Beaumont head over heels for the Major is the fact that he sends her flowers as a peace offering over one of their spats. It just isn't that easy. Most of the time, the two seem to hate each other, and in all honesty, the Major is a big jerk. When Miss Beaumont falls for him, it's really kind of depressing.
That aside, the film is well-made and has some funny moments, particularly when the principals are acting spiteful. Also, the picture's true worth comes out in its theme of the impending war and in making us feel that this idyllic lakeside village is doomed when the inevitable bombing begins. I don't know if that was the message they were shooting for when making a romance, but that's what they got, and ultimately, this unexpected power is what makes the film worthwhile.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 22nd September 1995
Production compaines: Miramax Films, Anuline
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Fresh: 12 Rotten: 5
Cast & Crew