“Enchanted April” is one of those movies that you think you have all figured out. This 1992 film, adapted from a 1922 novel by Elizabeth von Arnim and shot on location at Castello Brown in Portofino, Italy where she stayed in the 1920s, seems cut and dried. But “Enchanting April” proved to be an enchanting surprise.
Two women, aloof acquaintances, are drawn together by an advertisement to let a castle in Italy for the month of April. “Wisteria and sunshine” sounds irresistible to the two, stuck in dreary London in the endless rains of late winter, which serve to highlight their endless lives in dreary marriages. Lottie Wilkins, a matronly, rather odd and unattractive woman, is obsessed by the chance to get away from her boorish husband. She finally convinces Rose Arbuthnot to join her, after Rose is discouraged by her author husband’s newest naughty book release. Rose, whom her husband once referred to as having the face of “a disappointed Madonna,” is humiliated by her husband’s highly successful series of books about fallen women, so much so that he uses a pseudonym in concession to her discomfort.
The two pursue the dream slowly taking hold of them, but their pragmatic sides convince them to take along two guests, to help pay expenses. Thus they end up with Lady Caroline, a beautiful young woman heartily sick of being grabbed by men; and an elderly woman whose life revolves around the books of authors she used to know but has outlived.
As Enchanted April progressed I was more and more sure that here was a feminist treatise on the power of women friends, the perfidy of all men, and the “liberation” an affair would bring to the refined Rose, whom the owner of the castle obviously fancied. But in this lovely story that slowly unfolds, soft, gentle wildflowers filled the spot where I expected something bold and brassy as a sunflower.
The women gradually respond to the beauty all around them by becoming gentler and ever more beautiful themselves. As they allow the peace to fill and transform them from the inside they begin to naturally and gracefully exude the fragrance of a contented woman. And as their own hearts thaw and expand, they each find they have room for love, compassion and understanding of the men in their lives.
Enchanted April is well worth the time it takes for the story to unfold, and it is the antithesis of the feminist philosophy. Actually, it perfectly demonstrates the verse in Matthew 7:5 that admonishes us, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
It is easy for a woman who is very unhappy and stuck in a rut to believe that it is her husband’s fault. When she is able to see that the unhappiness lies within her and find ways out of the rut, then she can look compassionately at her husband with new eyes that see him unhappy and stuck in a rut, just as she was. Then she can truly be the “help mate” God created her to be as her husband responds and is drawn to the well of joy bubbling up in his wife.
Enchanted April is a gentle fable with the timeless message that love shared spreads a luminous joy, like one candle lighting another.
IMDd, Enchanted April, The Internet Movie Database
Wikipedia, Enchanted April