Directed by Audrey Wells, starring Diane Lane, Lindsay Duncan, Sandra Oh, Raoul Bova and Vincent Riotta.

There's not much to 'Under the Tuscan Sun', a lightweight and predictable chick flick which is only redeemed by a heartfelt performance from Diane Lane. It's based very loosely on Frances Mayle's best-selling book of the same name - although that author's descriptions of renovating a Tuscan villa with her husband have been abandoned for an-American-divorcee-seeks-love-in-Italy plot.  

Lane plays Frances who, devastated by the abrupt collapse of her marriage, ends up going on a trip to Italy. Seduced by the sunshine, she impulsively buys a crumbling but beautiful 300-year-old Tuscan villa. Having nicely set up the situation, director (and writer) Audrey Wells proceeds in a jerky, episodic manner: Frances renovating the house with the help of a trio of Polish handymen; Frances picking olives with her friendly neighbour; Frances making a pass at her sad-eyed estate agent (Riotta); Frances being swept off her feet by an impossibly handsome Italian lothario (Bova). There's also a pregnant lesbian best friend (Oh), a pair of lovestruck teens and a glamorous former muse of Fellini's (Duncan) to keep her occupied - but the most dramatic thing that happens in the entire film is when her washing machine gets struck by lightning during a storm.

Although 'Under the Tuscan Sun' would like to be a story about a brave woman who learns to live and love again, it never really grapples with Frances' loneliness and sense of loss. When she tries to explain her post-sale fears at buying a house for a life and family she doesn't have, the estate agent simply trots out a 'Field of Dreams'-type metaphor along the lines of "if you build it, they will come". Diane Lane gives this flimsy character some badly-needed depth but she's still drowning in a sea of cliché.

While cinema-going females may find 'Under the Tuscan Sun' marginally less irritating than their male companions, and the scenery is undeniably gorgeous, it's all too picture-postcard-perfect to be satisfying. Two stars - one for Lane and the other for the beautiful setting.

Caroline Hennessy