if the story doesn’t grab you, the incredible landscapes
Hotel Portofino ★★★½
Foxtel, from February 8
All it takes is a pair of dazzling blue eyes and a “scusi?” and off we go to the whimsical Italian cove of Portofino in 1926. Or, more accurately, the Portofino Hotel, a sort of Downton Abbey for rent by the night where bows and swirls of pearls dance slowly around limoncello and Italian conversation.
According to JP O’Connell’s book, Portofino Hotel has a bespoke TV twist on it. A kind of post-Downton AbbeyPublish-The Durrells video postcard about the world in a seemingly more innocent time. At least as much as the romantic, tangled bodices allow.
Bella Ainsworth (Natascha McElhone) is your charming hotelier, a transplanted Englishwoman who spent three years preparing the Portofino Hotel for business. Typical for the time, it was aimed at an English clientele, but a few foreign faces, such as Count Albani (Daniele Pecci) and his son Roberto (Lorenzo Richelmy), and Dr Anish Sengupta (Assad Zaman), spiced up the room to eat.
Bella’s husband Cecil (Mark Umbers) looks like he’s in trouble, sharing a romantic look at pretentious Julia Drummond-Ward (Lucy Akhurst), who brought her daughter Rose (Claude Scott-Mitchell) to visit, apparently as a potential wife. for the Ainsworths’ son, Lucian (Oliver Dench).
Lucian is, as these vintage postcard threads tend to be, all glassy-eyed, devastatingly beautiful, internally angsty and possibly bisexual. He looks like a boy who talks a little about it, but there’s something left unsaid in his exchanges with handsome Dr. Sengupta that suggests something more.
And amidst it all, no British postcard soap would be complete without a grand old lady, eager to ruffle everyone’s feathers until she was asleep with a timely glass of limoncello. In this role, Anna Chancellor, who is fondly remembered as the beautifully pretentious Miss Bingley in the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudiceabsolutely sparkles as Lady Latchmere.
Portofino Hotel is beautifully designed. Maybe too perfectly. There are times when you can almost hear the director call the action a split second before the choreographed ballet of Italian locals swirls in and out of frame. Even the hotel itself, admittedly recently opened, is a bit too perfect. In a sleepy vacation town like the 1920s, things in post-war Portofino could be a bit more rustic?