Under the Tuscan Sun:
A Cinema Alchemy Review
by Birgit Wolz, Ph.D.
Director: Audrey Wells
Producer: Tom Sternberg, Audrey Wells
Screenwriter: Audrey Wells
Stars: Diane Lane, Raoul Bova, Sandra Oh,
Lindsay Duncan, Dan Bucatinsky, Vincent Riotta
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 2003
Although Under the Tuscan Sun received
mixed reviews from critics, with some calling it typical Hollywood
escapism, it also won praise for its fairy tale storyline,
gorgeous scenery and sincere characters.
Diane Lane plays Frances Mayes, a San Francisco
author and book critic who suffers intense emotional pain
in the process of divorcing her husband. First he cheated
on her. Then he played the legal system to get a big chunk
of Frances' money. Lane's very convincing facial expressions
and body language of despair pull the viewer right into Frances'
internal emotional experience: we feel her hesitant
anticipation when her newly pregnant lesbian best friend gives
Frances a 10-day trip on a gay tour through Tuscany, we sense
her joy and confusion around spontaneously buying a 300-year-old
house there. We share her fear and dread during a big thunderstorm
and the many other challenges she confronts while remodeling
her villa. Rebuilding the mansion corresponds symbolically
with the process of reassembling the fragmented pieces of
As her inner healing progresses, Frances
falls in love with an Italian man. She starts expressing a
heart warming and extremely uplifting exuberance. Coming
home after having sex for the first time in a long time, she
bounces up and down, pumps her fists in the air and shouts,
"Yes! Yes! I still got it! I got it! I got it!"
The messages this story conveys are hopeful.
Just as with the 1989 Field of Dreams, Under
the Tuscan Sun says: "Don't give up," "If you build it
they will come," "Relax and let go, when you cannot control
an aspect of your life. Things will fall into place on their
own." During the last two scenes of the film, Francis receives
a surprising reward for having learned these lessons.
Her life becomes complete again.
Who can benefit from this movie?
Anyone who is struggling with a life transition
and feels scared of an uncertain future might benefit from
watching Under the Tuscan Sun. Because the movie
plot shows a courageous woman rebuilding her life after a
devastating loss, several of my clients found it to have positive
therapeutic effects. I believe it can have a similar effect
on many viewers who don’t yet see a “light at
the end of the tunnel” in their life situation. The
engrossing portrayal of the main character’s emotional
roller coaster and the rich use of symbolic images in the
film contribute to this effect.
Guidelines for watching:
Before you watch the movie:
• Focus on Frances' strength, courage,
and determination to rebuild her life after experiencing much
• Notice the "messages" she receives
throughout the movie that help her cope.
Answer these questions (best in writing)
after you watch the movie:
• What touched you most?
• What resources inside and outside
herself did Frances access to cope with her loss and to rebuild
• How can you apply this to yourself
and to your own inner and outer resources?