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Year: 2003
UK: Momentum Theatrical
Cast: Maggie Smith, Ronnie Barker, Chris Cooper, Timothy Spall, Benno Furmann, Giancarlo Giannini, Emmy Clarke, Libero De Rienzo, Cecilia Dazzi, Anna Longhi, Deirdre Harrison, Silvia de Santis, Alison Adam, Lynn Swanson, Taddeo Harbutt,Vittoria Colonna di Stigliano,Yari Gugliucci, Pietro Ragusa, Anna Orso
Director: Richard Loncraine
Countries: UK / Italy
UK: 109 mins
UK Certificate: 12A contains moderate sex references
UK Release Date: 26 November 2004


Based on the novella of the same name by William Trevor and directed by Richard Loncraine (HBO Films' THE GATHERING STORM and BAND OF BROTHERS), the film is a story of healing, a poignant look at an unlikely group of characters who find solace and friendship after being thrown together in the wake of a terrorist attack.

Umbria, Italy, the present day: A vintage convertible speeds through the lush countryside. Clutching her bonnet in the backseat is Emily Delahunty [Maggie Smith], an English romance novelist now residing in Umbria. Emily is in danger of missing a train to Milan, where she shops once a month. Hence the alacrity with which Quinty (Timothy Spall]) - her driver, business manager, butler and friend - races through the hills. The couple arrive at the station with nary a moment to spare, and Emily, annoyed and relieved at the same time, boards the train and heads to her eight-person compartment.

Taking her seat among a group of strangers, Emily takes stock in her traveling companions: the young German couple, obviously smitten; the elderly English gentleman, his grown daughter, and her husband; the American husband and wife, with their disarmingly beautiful young daughter. Emily strikes up a conversation with the girl, an 8 year-old named Aimee (Emmy Clarke), who inspires Emily to pen some words in her journal, perhaps for a future novel: "In the garden the geraniums were in flower. Through scented twilight the girl in the white dress walked with a step as light as a morning cobweb." But suddenly the bucolic calm is shattered. An explosion has ripped through the train compartment.

Emily wakes up in a hospital bed, scraped but otherwise unscathed, and learns from Quinty about the explosion, which damaged only her compartment. She also meets Italian Inspector Girotti (Giancarlo Giannini), looking for clues to what may have been a terrorist attack. Girotti tells her about the fates of the other passengers: only the Englishman (Ronnie Barker), the young German man (Benno Furmann) and Aimee have survived. Emily visits all three during her convalescence. Aimee, miraculously, has no injuries but is in shock and won't talk. Authorities are in the process of attempting to locate her next of kin in the U.S.

With the four survivors required to remain in Italy during the investigation, Emily invites the others to stay with her in Umbria upon their release from the hospital, and all accept. Quinty drives the group to Emily's house, an open-air villa with breathtaking vistas. It's not long before the spell of Umbria has completely won over the Englishman, a retired general and widower, and even the German, a pensive photographer named Werner who lost three fingers in the explosion. As these two plot out a new English-style garden for Emily, Aimee, after a period of silence during which she painted nightmarish pictures, breaks out of her shell, finally talking to the others during lunch one day.

For her part, Emily has never been happier, surrounded by new friends and delighting in her role as caregiver and, in a real way, as a mother to Aimee. When she learns that Aimee's uncle, a professor from Pennsylvania named Thomas Riversmith (Chris Cooper), has been located and is headed to Umbria to fetch Aimee, Emily is happy for the girl. But she is also unsure how good Aimee's uncle and his wife, who have no children, will be as surrogate parents.

During a day trip to the hilltop town of Siena, Emily corrals Tom at an out-of-the-way cafe and confides in him about her past. Tom is not moved by her story, nor does he succumb to her none-too-subtle flirtations. Then back in Umbria, Emily spots Werner conversing with two men by a car in the valley, but he later denies talking to anyone. Inspector Girotti, who already determined that the explosion was caused by a suitcase bomb that accidentally detonated, is growing suspicious of the German, who disappears one morning with the two men.

Meanwhile, after consulting with a local doctor, Tom decides Aimee is fit enough to make the trip back to America. Despite Emily's protestations that Aimee might be better off staying in Umbria, Tom seems intent on doing the responsible thing by taking care of his sister's child, even though the siblings had a falling out and never reconciled. On his last night in Umbria, Emily implores Tom not to let his sense of "culpa" stand in the way of his actions with Aimee. She also shares her theory on who committed the train bombing - one that came to her "in a dream." Tom scoffs at her notion, and coldly rejects her final attempt at intimacy. For her part, Emily tells the entomologist exactly who she thinks he is, and where she thinks he's going.

Emily has another dream that night, envisioning a loveless life for Aimee with the Riversmiths. Whether that dream comes true is up to Tom, who heads for the airport in the morning with his niece, leaving Emily and the General to contemplate their future and the true meaning of carpe diem, or "seize the day."

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