Film review: Tea with Mussolini (1999), directed by Franco Zeffirelli
Tea with Mussolini follows a group of ex-pat women (Cher, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith and Lily Tomlin) in Italy, just before World War II. One of them looks after Luca (Charlie Lucas as a child, Baird Wallace as an adult), the bastard child of a local rich man, and there’s generally a lot of tea drinking and talking in sumptuous Italian landscapes going on.
Then World War II comes along and complicates things. One of the ladies is certain that nice Mussolini chap will help them out, whilst the others are perhaps a little more realistic.
One of the women is Jewish, which poses its own problem, and none of them is allowed to leave the country. The Italy they all love is falling apart around them, and going back home is really the best option, but how can they possibly hope to get out of Italy alive?
Also features Chris Larkin (Maggie Smith’s son, Toby Stephens’s brother) as Major Gibson somewhere near the end.
If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know I’ve simplified the plot quite a lot. There is a lot more going on than what I’ve written, but if you want details, you should see the film, or read the plot synopsis on Wikipedia.
Either way, it’s an enjoyable film. No, it’s not exactly action-packed, perhaps, but it moves along nicely. In fact, calling it “nice” wouldn’t be wrong. It is nice. The Italian landscape is nice, the ladies are nice, Luca is nice, and there really is nothing wrong with this film at all. The cast is great, they do a great job, and it’s not an uneventful film.
It’s just … nice.
“Harmless” is perhaps another word. The sort of film kids would get bored when watching because “nothing happens”, even though stuff actually does happen, just not very quickly.
But it’s good, you know. Definitely.
Just a bit … nice, and perhaps not overly memorable.
3.7 out of 5 Scorpioni.