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Richard Strachan

Published January 1st, 2005 | by Richard Strachan

Shadows in the Sun Review

Classification: 12 Director: Brad Mirman Rating: 3/5

In this genial, if clichéd, romantic drama, Harvey Keitel plays celebrated novelist Weldon Parish, who hasn’t written a line in twenty years since the death of his beloved wife and is content instead to live as a recluse in a rustic Italian village. Convinced that signing Parish would be to his company’s great financial success, London publisher Mr Benton (John Rhys-Davies) dispatches callow junior editor Jeremy Taylor (Joshua Jackson) to convince the writer to take up his pen once more. Smug, sophisticated, yet harbouring a secret desire to write himself, Jeremy is soon brought up short by the mercurial Parish and by the relaxed pace of life in rural Italy, and begins to question the direction of his own career when he falls in love with Parish’s daughter, Isabella (Claire Forlani). Little that follows is a great surprise – Jeremy gains the courage to explore his own talent, and in doing so helps Parish deal with his grief and start hitting the keys on his typewriter again. He even gets the girl at the end.

Writer/director Brad Mirman employs a number of stock characters in his script, from the priest who’s fond of a drink or two (played by Giancarlo Giannini), to Weldon Parish himself. Keitel’s tremendous leonine face is put to good use expressing the conflicted, abrasive and boisterous writer, but the character falls into that usual stereotypical depiction of a creative artist – half-crazed and half-inspired, and prone to weeping over his typewriter when forced to confront his inability to write. Most creative artists achieve their success through hard work, but a film about someone sitting in a room on their own, typing, would no doubt be a lot less interesting. We’re also never shown exactly what it is, or was, that made Weldon Parish such a great writer in the first place; apart from a brief glimpse of the dust jacket from his bestseller ‘The Shadow Dancers’, we’re left in the dark as to the scope of his literary talents.

The film slips into that American mode, popular since the days of Henry James, of assuming that the European approach to life is more relaxed, more natural, more true, while tacitly accepting its off-hand decadence, but it’s a well-meaning portrait of sleepy rural Italy on the whole. The supporting performances from the villagers are funny and natural, and Mirman certainly makes the most of his beautiful Tuscan backdrops. Unobjectionable and quite entertaining.

aka: The Shadow Dancer


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