Strachey and Carrington were known for wit and substance, but you'd never guess it from this film. (Carrington) If the movie is sluggish, the travelogue is terrific. (A Month by the Lake)


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"A Month by the Lake" is an invitation to visit a gentler time and place, a whisper that says, "This is what it was like once upon a time." It is also an invitation to overlook two terribly overwritten and badly acted subplots (Uma Thurman as a coquettish American nanny and Allesandro Gassman as a young Italian hunk). Sink instead into the pleasures--Lake Como and Vanessa Redgrave.

Nothing much happens by this lake, and it happens very slowly, but it is absolutely beautiful to look at. You will have to overcome the unlikelihood of Redgrave as a shy, quite lonely woman on holiday by herself. She undertakes a discreet pursuit of Major Winslow (James Fox), an equally lonely British businessman. Their tentative courtship ambles along toward its predictable conclusion while she tries to puncture his pomposity.

If the movie is sluggish, the travelogue is terrific. Redgrave strides around in flowing clothes that hang marvelously on her grand bones. She's the Statue of Liberty come to life, and even a terrace on Lake Como can't quite contain her.

The terrace, the lake, and the snail's pace of leisurely life on the eve of World War II are created beautifully by director John Irvin. He's betting, I think, that you will want to spend this hour and a half dreaming about a month in such a place with nothing more on your mind than reading, writing, and browsing. He may well be right.

On the other hand, the heralded movie "Carrington" has everything: Emma Thompson, Jonathan Pryce, writer/director Christopher Hampton, and the usually irresistible touch of Bloomsbury. So expectant are we, that fully half the movie passes before we admit to ourselves that this is a relentlessly grim affair that doesn't give us even a whiff of the humor and intelligence that laced the work and lives of the people it presents.

The love between the painter Dora Carrington (Thompson) and the renowned literary eccentric Lytton Strachey (Pryce) is based on freedom in the widest sense. His affairs with other men never diminish her need for the comfortable, cerebral life they make together in their country house; her affairs, and her marriage to Ralph Partridge (Stephen Waddington), who moves in with them, never diminish Strachey's affection for her.

Strachey and Carrington were known for wit and substance, but you'd never guess it from this film. Even fine efforts by Emma Thompson and Jonathan Pryce can't lighten the gloom of two people who dream of loving everyone and seem surprised when it hurts. Freedom exacts a price. The core of this story is that Carrington simply could not live without Strachey--not while he was alive, not after he died. All the right ingredients fail to lift the film.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 499
Studio : Miramax & Gramercy Pictures
Rating : PG & R
Running Time: 1h32m & 2h3m

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