This is a period piece, based on a Henry James novel, it takes place in Edwardian England, 1910. Helena Bonham Carter plays a poor relation, Kate, who has been taken in by her well to-do aunt after her mother dies. Her father is an alcoholic and drug addict. Kate’s in love with a radical and political journalist, Merton, played by Linus Roache but now that she’s the ward of her rich aunt, he will never do as a husband. Meanwhile, her aunt is trying to arrange a marriage for her with a rich man, Lord Mark, rather than let her make the same mistake her mother did, marrying a lower class man. Aunt Maud puts her foot down and forbids Kate and Merton to see each other.
Kate meets a young American heiress, Milly, who is alone in the world aside from a companion, played by Elizabeth McGovern (currently known as Lady Grantham on Downton Abbey). Milly is very, very rich and finds herself attracted to Merton. Lord Mark, though, he does love Kate, needs to marry Milly because he needs her money after she dies. It turns out she is tragically and fatally ill. Kate persuades Merton to make a play for the heiress, let her fall in love with him in order to inherit her millions so that they can be together after Milly’s death. As you might expect, things don’t go according to plan.
The scene moves from London to Venice when Milly decides to go traveling. Kate goes with her and Merton is persuaded to go llater and meet up with them there. Kate soon leaves them, thus all the better to get Milly to fall for him but she is jealous and paranoid, suspecting Merton is developing feelings for Milly as well.
There are good location shots in various London parks and streets and in the underground, fitted up with an old train rather than the new ones. The joy really comes when the location moves to Venice. There are beautiful shots of the bridges, piazzas, canals and buildings, with wonderful early morning and evening light much of the time. There is a costume party on a street at night, there are romantic midnight rides in gondolas, there are sunrises and sunsets over the wonderful Venetian skylines. We see Venice in all types of weather and it makes me want to walk the narrow streets myself.