Under the Tuscan Sun spoke to me of sun-warmed fields, good food, and great companions. It made me wish that I was the sort of person who could drop everything and go live in Italy. The evocation of the country reminds me of Stealing Beauty, another movie with incredible imagery that grabs me, even without the story.

It’s fascinating to me that the movie is based on a book of the same name, which is a memoir based on author Francis Mayes’ experience of buying and renovating a villa in Tuscany. It is the book which brings us the vivid picture of the area, the house, and the people. Of course, a memoir would not make a good movie without a plot, and so there is a story nestled into it by producer Audrey Wells, with Diane Lane playing a writer, Francis, who finds herself in Italy after a staggering divorce.

The story seems perfectly at home in this golden version of Italy. It is not heavy-handed with its romance or its comedy, because this is definitely not what you would usually call a romantic comedy. There is love, but no main love interest. There is heartbreak, but no astounding turn of events to sweep it away. It is a story that tells us that life continues. There is sorrow and joy, back and forth, because life is both of those. She finds love and loses it, but the important thing is that she comes to believe in herself.

The way that friends collect around her is beautiful, and she slowly comes to have a sort of family here, so far away from what she knows. Contractors, neighbors, and the real estate agent are among those who become important to her, and vice versa, as the movie unfolds. Eventually, she is joined by her friend from America, played by Sandra Oh, whom I love. There is something wonderfully expressive about her face. Her friend, who was so in love when Francis left America, is now also in need of healing.

In the end, nothing is certain, except that beauty comes in unexpected places.

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