Talk of Angels

      If you're in the mood for a good old-fashioned love story and want to watch two attractive
stars carry on a mostly chaste romance, then
TALK OF ANGELS is it. Based on Irish novelist
Kate O'Brien's novel Mary Lavelle, the film is about a convent-raised young Irishwoman (played
by Polly Walker) who takes a position as a governess with a Spanish family just before the
outbreak of that country's civil war. Mary has deemed a need to separate from her fiance to test
their commitment to one another—so she arrives to take up her new post. The mistress of the
house, the imperious Dona Consuelo (Marisa Paredes) clearly does not like this young woman
who is barely older than her charges, but Mary perseveres and wins over her youngest charge
Mila and the patriarch, Dr. Vicente (Franco Nero). She also finds herself drawn to their unhappily
married son (played by Vincent Perez). As is typical of these types of stories, the outsider
becomes a catalyst for change.

      Set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War,
to recreate the sweep of epic films like
GONE WITH THE WIND (which it echoes in at least
one shot) and
THE ENGLISH PATIENT. Unfortunately, the material hasn't been conceived
on the same scale as those films. Also, coming so soon after other films that have used the
same period as a backdrop (especially Ken Loach's superior
the more problematic

      Despite a too ambitious script and debuting director Nick Hamm's uneven pacing, the film
does offer its pleasures. The production design and period costumes are fabulous and the cast
is uniformly excellent. Standouts include Francisco Rabal as a lecherous priest, Franco Nero
as the physician with a revolutionary past and Ariadna Gil as the unhappy wife of Vincent Perez.
Also of note are Frances McDormand and Ruth McCabe as two other expatriate governesses.
McDormand gamely invests her character with a bit of mystery while McCabe tears into her role
as the most unconventional of the Irishwomen who band together on their days off. In the two
leading roles, Polly Walker and Vincent Perez make for one of the best-looking onscreen couples.
While there is a hint of the erotic tension between them, however, the spark doesn't turn into a
blaze. Still, in this time when men and women are thrown together in lovemaking scenes, the
restraint is welcomed.

TALK OF ANGELS is a title that has dual meaning. It is used by the Irishwomen in much
the same way as one would say "Speak of the devil", and it also is a key factor in the
relationship between Perez and Walker. There is an extended set piece at a ruin of a church
where the couple recognize their feelings. While the film isn't what it perhaps could have been,
the movie is a throwback to the "women's films" of the 1940s and could make for a perfect
"date movie".

                                                      Rating:        C +
© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.