Shadows in the Sun Review
The London publishing world is buzzing with the news that an author, long thought to have retired, has signed a contract with a publishing house and is intending to write once again. Up-and-coming editor, Jeremy Taylor (Joshua Jackson), is dispatched by his boss, Benton (John Rhys-Davies) to make his own splash in the business...bring author Weldon Parish (Harvey Keitel) back to the bestseller charts by persuading him to write again. The problem that Taylor faces is that Parish is famous for not having written anything since the death of his wife some twenty years before and little is known about him other than his living in a small village in Tuscany. As Taylor leaves the next day for Italy, he wonders what awaits him.
Well, other than a flock of sheep that surrounds his hired BMW, he finds a small village very keen on protecting the writer that they have living amongst them. In between the hotelier denying that Weldon Parish even lives in the village to Parish himself feigning insanity, Taylor realises that his traditional method of pitching his publishing house will not work on a man who wants for nothing and enjoys the life he's built for himself in Italy. Surrounded by his three beautiful daughters, he can take the time to watch the days pass, to eat and drink well and to enjoy the friendship of those who live in the village, including Gustavo (Armando Pucci), Father Moretti (Giancarlo Giannini) and Amalia (Valeria Cavalli). But the longer Taylor stays, the more he realises that Parish wants to write but stops himself from ever doing so again. As he and Parish's youngest daughter Isabella (Claire Forlani) begin a stumbling romance, Taylor and Parish spend long days talking about what it would mean to write and to be a writer but without ever putting pen to paper nor indeed hands to typewriter. Under pressure to return home, Taylor is determined to sign Parish but the writer is equally determined not to be signed.
In between the two central stories of romance and of friendship - Taylor and Isabella and Taylor and Weldon - lies the actual theme of the film, does a writer choose to write or does writing choose the writer. For Weldon Parish, the answer is no. Following the death of his wife, he tells Jeremy Taylor that he had nothing to say, at least nothing that he would want to write nor to be read. He's not awfully fond of Taylor either, firstly by pretending to be insane, then chasing him off his farm before dropping him in a lake tied to the wheel of a car but slowly the two come to terms with their relationship. At first, it's the description of a sunrise that brings him round but they continue to talk about writing and what it is to be a writer. Parish is, though, wary of any talk of actually writing, considering it a betrayal of their friendship when Taylor brings it up. There are moments of comedy in this, with Parish dropping his trousers in a crowded cafe and telling Taylor that he'll sign his contract if Taylor will kiss his ass but his intention is clear - he will not be signing the contract.
But given that this is a romantic comedy, you won't be surprised to learn that, before the film's end, the clacking of a typewriter is coming from Weldon Parish's house. Nor will it be a surprise to see how obviously the other half of the plot is unfurl, that of the romance between Taylor and Isabella Parish. Play this in a cemetery and even the corpses, as decayed as they may be, will have worked out the ending of Shadows in the Sun but, like Love Actually, that's not really what the film is about. Never quite as incredible as that film's romance between the Hugh Grant's Prime Minister and Martine McCutcheon's tea girl, that of Shadows in the Sun is very, very nice but is made a little more sparky than one might expect by Claire Forlani's spirited performance. Indeed, where we expect them to get and to stay together during a festival in the village, they don't. They do sleep together but, the next morning, she's gone.
Yet neither plot is really what's best about Shadows in the Sun. Instead, it's the scenery in the Tuscan village that's the star of the piece - Joshua Jackson admits as much in the making-of - and it takes centre stage as much as the locations of Chocolat and Rosanna's Grave did. It looks beautiful and although that was clearly what director Brad Mirman intended, it works. Try as they might, Claire Forlani and Joshua Jackson can't quite compete and although Harvey Keitel brings a charming grouchiness to Weldon Parish, it's the sunlit Tuscan hills that you'll remember about this film.
Shadows in the Sun has been anamorphically transferred and looks fine but has a certain appearance to it that reveals its roots in television. Made for the ABC Family channel in the US, it lacks the kind of detail in the image that you might associate with a film that was made for the cinemas and, as with the feature itself, the DVD benefits a good deal from the beauty of the scenery. Had the film been set, for example, in Aberdeen, I suspect that it may not look quite so pretty on DVD but Momentum have done a pretty good job of transferring the film onto disc.
They have, though, done an excellent job with the audio track. There isn't much of a score to speak of - at least, if there is, it's not noticeable - so it's obvious that good use is made of the front and rear speakers for ambient effects, particularly the sound of the crickets, birds and very occasional vehicle. With one exception, a fantasy sequence, the soundtrack never really comes to life but the DVD does a good job regardless.
Sourcing a fairly set of extras, you'll be buying this, if you do at all, for the main feature and not for what Momentum pulled together for the DVD. The main special feature is a Behind The Scenes (32m22s) look at the making of the film and features interviews with the main cast and crew as well as some video footage of the film in production. These sightings of the cast are then further developed through an extra set of Interviews (15m18s), which feature actors Clare Forlani (15m18s) and Joshua Jackson (6m16s), producer Jamie Brown (4m32s) and writer/director Brad Mirman (16m17s). Finally, there's a Trailer (2m02s).
The kind of film that it's not really necessary to remain awake for to work out what's going to happen, Shadows in the Sun is a nice film but won't exactly set the, or even your, world on fire. Coming on a decent DVD, it's not bad summer fare for those who enjoyed Love Actually or Notting Hill but anyone wanting a little more desire in their romance will find this wanting.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 05:11:37