Up at the Villa

Theatrical Release: May 5, 2000
DVD Release: October 24, 2000
Up at the Villa


Although the presence of black-shirted fascists and menacing street thugs presages the coming of WWII, the remains of Tuscany’s Anglo-American expatriate community are in blithe denial of the impending threat, preferring to lead a leisurely existence of fancy-dress balls and languorous sunny afternoons in sumptuous renaissance villas.

Mary Panton (Kristin Scott Thomas), an English beauty recently widowed and left penniless, is staying at one such villa thanks to the generosity of acquaintances. Sir Edgar Swift (James Fox), a friend 25 years older than Mary, proposes marriage, but Mary isn’t in love with him. She is, however, tempted by the advantages of his proposal – not only is he a cherished friend, he is about to be appointed governor of Bengal and, as such, can offer her a life of luxury. She asks for a few days to consider his offer.

Meanwhile, at a dinner party held by her friend Princess San Ferdinando (Anne Bancroft), Mary meets Rowley Flint (Sean Penn), a rakish, charming American who, despite his married status, has a well-earned reputation as a playboy. In the few days before Edgar returns for her decision, Mary becomes entangled in an impulsive sexual encounter that leads to violence and tragedy.

Dove Review

Thoughtful and well conceived, this is an intelligent film that relies on witty dialogue and rich, detailed performances rather than bombs and car chases to hold the viewer’s attention. Even though there is an implied sexual liaison, lessons are learned from the impulsive act that serve to alert others that sex outside marriage may have serious consequences. It is a well-told story wherein the lead betters herself and finds wisdom by film’s end. And although the male lead is a bit of a rogue, he does put his life on the line to help others. Due to the implied sexual relations and the amoral attitude of its male lead, we are recommending this for viewers age 12 and above.

Content Description

Faith: None
Violence: One man is seen bloodied from being beaten; one suicide off camera, but necessary for the development of the story.
Sex: One implied sexual situation, but we do not see the act; one peripheral character is gay, but he is not involved in any sexual activity; one character briefly discusses sexual relationships from an amoral perspective.
Language: None
Violence: One man is seen bloodied from being beaten; one suicide off camera, but necessary for the development of the story.
Drugs: The characters drink several times, with one lady getting drunk.
Nudity: None
Other: None


Company: Focus Features
Writer: Belinda Haas
Director: Philip Haas
Producer: Geoff Stier
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 115 min.
Reviewer: Phil Boatwright