After films such as Eat, Pray, Love and Up in the Air, I am regularly concerned that a film about a woman alone, often in their later years, will become a treatise about how being single is not the ideal or, conversely, how being married must be a trap. Then along comes a film such as Viaggio Sola: A Five Star Life, that shelves my fears and expectations. Irene (Margherita Buy) is a beautiful 40-something who travels to five-star hotels for a living as a mystery guest. Her work takes her to some of the most exotic places on the planet and she is often treated to extreme luxury. Meanwhile, her sister Silvia (Fabrizia Sacchi ) is at home with a husband and children and spends a good deal of time trying to convince Irene that she should settle down and start a family. Irene’s best friend is a handsome ex-lover named Andrea (Stefano Accorsi). Andrea has just gotten himself into trouble after accidentally getting a one night stand pregnant. He begins to adjust to the new lifestyle, much to Irene’s chagrin. She continues to travel, but after an encounter with a vibrant English woman named Kate Sherman (Lesley Manville), Irene begins to question her choices, but not in the way one would expect.
A Five Star Life is one of the first films I’ve seen in ages that does not vilify the woman who chooses a life without children or attachment. However, it does not poorly color the life and role of a mother either. Director Maria Sole Tognazzi manages to keep a balanced Italian perspective on the role of a woman and her choices in present day. An English woman named Kate Sherman’s views on the feminine role may be a brief interlude, but they help to color the viewer’s idea of the thoughts circulating through Irene’s brain during her solitary trips abroad. Irene herself is a strong vibrant woman, but with believable emotions. She loves her family, but fights with them. She loves Andrea, but is able to back away when she knows her presence is not the best for certain situations. Irene for the most part knows who she is, and when she is unsettled she finds a way to bring herself back to center.
A Five Star Life is a beautiful film with locations that are often breath-taking. Here I will warn viewers that there will be moments where you will pant looking at the gorgeous landscapes of Morocco or Gstaad. You will start questioning if your passport is up to date and what one has to do to get into Irene’s job. These stunning images are an added bonus to a strong story.
A Five Star Life does not tell women what they should do with their lives. It does not punish those who have chosen a solitary path, nor does it tell women with children that they’ve done something wrong. The film simply tells women they must find their own path in a complicated world. The beauty of the Italian language, the message and the settings blend with perfection and make the film a true delight.
A Five Star Life is currently available in New York, and opens nationwide August 1, 2014.