E.M. Foster's brilliant study of the clash of cultures begins when the
widowed Lilia Herriton (Helen Mirren) is packed off to Italy in an effort
to keep her out of mischief and perhaps to effect an improvement of her
mind. Her suspicious English in-laws, however, are soon shocked to learn
that she has done more than acquire a little culture - she has fallen
in love with an impoverished Italian several years her junior.
Mrs Herriton (Barbara Jefford) dispatches her son, Philip (Rupert Graves)
to the small Tuscan town of Monteriano to defend the family name and bring
the defiant Lilia to her senses - but it is already too late. Lilia and
Gino (Giovanni Guidelli), the handsome twenty-one-year old son of the
local dentist, were married as soon as they knew Philip was on his way.
The tug-of-war which follows, first to bring Lilia home again and then
to bring her baby back to England, becomes a struggle both comic and tragic.
But for Philip and Lilia's sister-in-law (Judy Davis) and for her friend
Caroline (Helena Bonham Carter) the atmosphere of Italy works its inevitable
magic. In true Forsterian style the prim and snobbish English are themselves
transformed are arrive at a new awareness of a more passionate and heartfelt
way of life.