Essentially a Merchant-Ivory production made without the participation of either Ismail Merchant or James Ivory, Enchanted April is a charming period piece that delivers on the enchantment implied in its title. Mike Newell has directed in a delicate, almost fragile style that imbues the film with an ethereal, magical atmosphere that is hard to resist. This is the kind of balancing act that is much harder to pull off than it looks -- one false utterance, inappropriate gesture, or anachronistic attitude can destroy the spell, and too much adherence to maintaining the tone can induce ennui in the viewer. Newell and his excellent cast make it work, aided greatly by Peter Barnes' sensitive screenplay and some quietly stunning visuals of the castle and its environs. Josie Lawrence is a giddy delight, and her performance is nicely balanced by Miranda Richardson's subtle and serene portrayal. Joan Plowright plays the crusty old lady to the hilt, Alfred Molina and Jim Broadbent hit just the right notes as husbands not sufficiently aware of their wives' virtues, and Michael Kitchen conveys a boyish excitement underneath his mature reserve. Perhaps too much a grown-up fairy tale for some, Enchanted April's unreality has an undeniable appeal.
by Craig Butler review