An American woman travels to Italy and discovers new aspects of herself along the way in the 2003 film “Under the Tuscan Sun”. A film adaptation of Frances Mayes’ autobiography starring Diane Lane as a San Francisco writer whose husband leaves her and steals their home is directed by Audrey Wells.
For the sake of Frances’ spirits, her best friend Patti (Sandra Oh, whose wife Kate Walsh plays on “Grey’s Anatomy”) sends her to Italy. Frances buys a Tuscan villa after a series of fortunate events. Frances discovers a whole new world as she works on the house, including a brief relationship with a very attractive man (Raoul Bova). What’s more, she’s in a situation that’s utterly foreign to her.
In search of a romantic comedy set in a picturesque location, “Under the Tuscan Sun” was a smash hit. There is a focus on self-discovery, transitions in one’s life, joy, and defying expectations. Thanks to movies like “Under the Tuscan Sun,” these themes can be explored in a romantic comedy.
Despite the fact that some of these films don’t relocate their protagonist (e.g., “Enough Said,” “Gloria”) or feature a female protagonist (e.g., “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “A Good Year”), they all share a confrontation with one’s self and the subsequent discovery of life, love, and home. Here is a list of films that are similar but not necessarily in that order.
1. Before Sunrise
In his 1995 film “Before Sunrise,” Richard Linklater follows two strangers for a full day. When Ethan Hawke’s character Jesse and Julie Delpy’s character Céline meet on a train, they decide to spend the rest of the day exploring Vienna together. Céline is a romantic, whereas Jesse is pessimistic.
The two put each other to the test by debating their points of view, and they discover that opposition attracts. With a stranger in a strange land, it’s easier to be vulnerable. The movie captures that dynamic perfectly, creating an authentic and dynamic connection between the two characters..
With a perfect score of 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the film was a critical and commercial success for director Richard Linklater. When compared to “Under the Tuscan Sun,” the film’s theme is self-examination and whether or not people are willing to engage in that process when they’re away from home.
First in a trilogy, “Before Sunrise” explores the relationship between Jesse and Céline. Jesse and Céline are reunited in Paris in “Before Sunset” (2004), while “Before Midnight” (2013) takes them to Greece. Whether you watch one or all three films, you’ll be drawn into the world of Jesse and Céline and experience what it’s like to travel with them to some of the most breathtaking locations on the planet.
2. A Good Year
In 2006’s “A Good Year,” Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott, who had previously established themselves in the action and sci-fi genres, came together for an unexpected trip to France. A workaholic London trader (Russell Crowe) is the focus of Ridley Scott’s film, which he also directed. Henry (Albert Finney), Max’s long-lost uncle, passes away and leaves him his vineyard in Provence, France, where he had grown up.
Fanny (Marion Cotillard) is an untrusting cafe owner, and Christie (Abbie Cornish) is Henry’s illegitimate daughter, so Max visits the vineyard to try to sell it. Because of this, Max is torn between staying on the vineyard and returning to his fast-paced life in the city.
“A Good Year” transports viewers to a more tranquil part of the country than previous films like “Gladiator” or “Alien” had. As Max tries to get used to life on the vineyard, you can almost smell the grapes and feel the warmth of the dappled sunlight. “Under the Tuscan Sun” also explores an age-old question: Where is one’s home? The film shows that to find one’s true home, one must sometimes leave everything they know behind.
3. Shirley Valentine
A trip to Greece for Pauline Collins, a dissatisfied housewife, is the catalyst for “Shirley Valentine,” a 1989 film about finding love again. Since her marriage has turned into a sham, her daughter views her as little more than a nanny. Shirley has taken to talking to the walls in order to cope.
As a result, when a friend of Shirley’s wins a trip to the Greek island of Mykonos, she unexpectedly puts herself first and seizes the opportunity to visit. In the blink of an eye, Shirley’s friend has moved on to find a new love interest, and Shirley is left to explore Mykonos alone.
The film captures the Greek island’s golden age (when it was a place of freedom and magic rather than just a destination for celebrities).
Shirley falls in love with the owner of a tavern, Costas (Tom Conti), and does things she’s never done before, like swim naked. What the film brilliantly conveys is that she falls in love with the idea of living. Shirly Valentine was a hit with critics and audiences alike, earning more than $70 million worldwide. It also garnered a slew of accolades, including a Best Actress nomination at the Academy Awards.
Shirley Valentine, like “Under the Tuscan Sun,” tells the story of a middle-aged woman who gives up an oppressive life to start a new one. Even in the 21st century, viewers can continue to take pleasure in this warm slice of life in the warm Mediterranean sun.
4. The Holiday
Fans of “Under the Tuscan Sun” will likely enjoy anything directed by Nancy Meyers, as they all focus on women who find themselves in beautiful situations, both literally and metaphorically. Meyers’ 2006 film “The Holiday,” however, takes that to a new level by taking place in both London and Los Angeles. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz star as Iris and Amanda, two women dealing with heartbreak who decide to exchange homes as a way to heal their wounds.
Both Iris and Amanda feel like outsiders in their new neighborhoods, but with the help of new acquaintances, neighbors, and love interests, they find their feet. Graham (Jude Law), Iris’ handsome brother, meets Amanda, while Iris falls in love with Ethan (Jude Law) (Jack Black). Despite the predictable plot, the film relies on familiarity and romantic comedy tropes to make the audience feel good at the end of the film.
It’s impossible to watch “The Holiday” without feeling like you’re wrapped up in a warm blanket thanks to its stellar cast, stunning locations, and that distinct Meyers touch.
5. How Stella Got Her Groove Back
Stella (Angela Bassett), 40, decides to go to Jamaica for a much-needed vacation in this 1998 rom-com/drama. For the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, where she meets attractive islander Winston Shakespeare (Taye Diggs in his film debut), she leaves the world of finance and motherhood behind. Stella doesn’t take Winston seriously at first because he’s 20 years her junior. Her walls begin to crumble as she realizes that maybe she can have it all: love, work, and a lot of fun.
Adapted from Terry McMillan’s novel of the same name, the film grossed over $40 million worldwide and was a huge hit at the box office. Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs’ on-screen chemistry, as well as the stellar supporting cast (Whoopi Goldberg and Regina King, anyone?) and the film’s memorable soundtrack, which included songs by Janet Jackson and Shaggy, all contributed to its widespread success
More than two decades after its release, the film remains a romantic classic thanks to Stella’s journey of self-discovery. This film demonstrates to viewers that getting your groove back can be accomplished in a variety of ways, whether you decide to take a trip to Jamaica or Italy.
6. L’Auberge Espagnole
Whether you’ve studied abroad or not, Cédric Klapisch’s 2002 film “L’auberge Espagnole” (“The Spanish Apartment”) perfectly captures the dream of studying abroad. French business student Xavier decides to do an exchange year in Barcelona with a foreign exchange program and is played by Romain Duris in this French-Spanish coproduction. Students from England, Spain, Germany, Belgium, and Denmark all live in the same apartment building where he’ll be sharing a room.
Love, heartbreak, parties, and lots of miscommunication fill Xavier’s year in Barcelona during his first year at university in the city. ‘L’Auberge Espagnole’ takes viewers on a tour of Barcelona from the perspective of a foreigner who eventually becomes part of the community, and the city comes to life as a distinct personality all on its own in the film. The film features some of Europe’s hottest young actors of the time, including Audrey Tautou and Cécile de France, and was followed up by “Russian Dolls” in 2005.
According to Diane Lane’s story in “L’Auberge Espagnole,” “L’Auberge Espagnole” symbolizes the excitement of self-discovery while in a new place. Xavier’s charisma comes from his ability to make the audience feel like they are a part of the action. This multi-cultural European delight may transport you to another time and place, no matter where you are in life.
7. Desert Hearts
“Desert Hearts,” a 1985 gay romance film directed by Donna Deitch, takes viewers to the Nevada desert in 1959. A New York university professor (Helen Shaver) travels to Reno to get divorced in this 1964 film adaptation of Jane Rule’s novel “Desert of the Heart,” which is based on the novel. Due to the difficulty in obtaining a divorce in the 1950s, Reno became known as the “divorce capital of the world,” where it could be done quickly no matter how bad things were in the marriage before the divorce was filed..
Sculptor Cay Rivers (Patricia Charbonneau) challenges Vivian’s rigidity in Reno. Vivian meets Cay for the first time there. Vivian, who is reserved and closed off, is swayed by Cay’s willingness to be open. In the middle of nowhere, under the scorching sun and countless stars, two people fall in love.
A lesbian relationship is positively portrayed in “Desert Hearts,” one of the first films to do so. “Desert Hearts” portrays a healthy and hopeful view of love, which has helped it become a beloved classic among the LGBTQ community. Vivian takes viewers to this strange and surprising land out west, complete with a stark setting and a 1950s style. Like in “Under the Tuscan Sun,” the protagonist, 35, believes she knows who she is and what she wants until she moves to a new place.
8. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
While “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” a romantic comedy directed by Nicholas Stoller and released in 2008, may be the funniest film on this list, its basis in the real sorrow of a breakup makes it an ideal addition. Peter, a film about a music composer who gets dumped by his girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell), stars Jason Segel, who also wrote the screenplay.
To cope with his feelings for Rachel (Mila Kunis), Peter decides to go on vacation in Hawaii with his best friend. While there, he runs into her at the hotel and falls in love with her. Of course, Sarah and Aldous Snow are vacationing together at the same ski resort (Russell Brand, who reprises this role in “Get Him to the Greek”). As Peter vacillates between his relationships with Sarah and Rachel, he is confronted with his past and future selves.
As a Judd Apatow film, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” takes inspiration from Jason Segel’s life, complete with a bare-naked breakup. Fans of rom-coms and comedies will enjoy it because of its authenticity. An all-star supporting cast led by Bill Hader, Jonah Hill, and Jack McBrayer helps to keep the film light-hearted while also emphasizing the vulnerability of Peter as he tries to make sense of it all. Like “Under the Tuscan Sun,” the lesson in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is that we can’t love anyone until we love ourselves, and to do that, sometimes you have to put on a Dracula-themed puppet show.”
9. Eat Pray Love
The 2010 film “Eat Pray Love,” based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir of the same name, stars Julia Roberts as a woman on a quest to discover who she is. With a husband and house under her belt, Roberts portrays an empowered woman who isn’t content with her lot in life. This leads her to end her marriage and go on a long (and expensive) journey of self-care to Italy, India, and Indonesia where she learns about how people eat and pray and how to fall in love all at the same time.
Despite mixed critical reception, the film was a financial success, grossing over $200 million worldwide. Elizabeth’s journey, which ends in love but is primarily devoted to learning to love oneself, brought comfort and excitement to the audience.
The film and book have been criticized by some for existing in a bubble of whiteness and wealth, as Gilbert has the funds to travel for a year and go somewhere like Indonesia to “save” a woman on her own terms. While “Under the Tuscan Sun” and other films in this genre can be viewed as metaphorical and literal journeys to wonderful and unexpected places, it’s important to remember that they’re not the same thing.
10. Leap Year
Anna in “Leap Year,” an Amy Adams romantic comedy from 2010, plans to pop the question to her boyfriend in Ireland. After four years of dating, Jeremy (Adam Scott) has yet to propose to Anna. To celebrate Bachelor’s Day in Ireland, on February 29th, a woman can ask a man to marry her, and he can’t say no.
Anna decides to pop the question to Jeremy while he’s in Dublin for a conference, but she gets lost in the countryside. Declan (Matthew Goode), an innkeeper, offers to help her get to Dublin. At first, Declan is skeptic, but he is soon won over by her romantic, carefree attitude. In Ireland, Anna begins to question her relationship with Jeremy and the values that keep them together as they travel.
As in “Under the Tuscan Sun,” “Leap Year” highlights Ireland’s stunning countryside, which has an undeniable magic that could inspire anyone to imagine a new future. Amy Adams had already made a name for herself in the rom-com genre with 2007’s “Enchanted,” and she brings the same sincerity to Leap Year as Matthew Goode’s cynicism. Despite the film’s lackluster reception from critics and audiences alike, it’s a welcome addition to the genre of films about women who travel abroad and come home to unexpected revelations.
In 2013, Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s fourth film, the romantic drama “Gloria,” had already made a name for itself on the international stage. A 58-year-old Chilean woman who has been divorced for ten years, Paulina Garca plays the title role. In order to satisfy her need for adventure now that her children have grown up and left home, she begins attending singles’ discos, where she meets older man Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), who has developed an emotional attachment to his two adult daughters.
Throughout this new relationship, Gloria is navigating her own boundaries while also trying to find herself again. In the end, Gloria returns to the person she needed all along: herself.
Paulina Garca won the Best Actress award for her performance in “Gloria,” which had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently has a score of 99 percent, with both critics and audiences praising the film’s portrayal of the rare female protagonist in her mid-fifties and its realistic and heartfelt tone.
For those who haven’t seen the film, “Gloria” shows a flawed woman who is trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life at the end of the road. Lelio decided to make “Gloria Bell,” an English-language remake with Julianne Moore and John Turturro, to reach new audiences. Both renditions are excellent additions to the “Under the Tuscan Sun” canon of work.
12. Paris Can Wait
Diane Lane returns to Europe in Eleanor Coppola’s autobiographical narrative feature debut “Paris Can Wait,” which takes place in France. Film producer Michael (Alec Baldwin) and his wife Anne (Diane Lane) must leave for Paris after the Cannes Film Festival because he is married to another producer, Anne (Diane Lane).
Because of an ear infection, Anne is unable to fly and must rely on Michael’s producing partner, Jacques (Aunard Viard), to drive her to her destination. Jacques is a bon vivant who can’t go more than an hour without a gourmet meal, so the road trip is filled with mouthwatering French cuisine. During the journey, they become closer as Anne begins to reveal aspects of herself to this new acquaintance who is more open to life than her husband is.
In particular, her documentaries that go behind the scenes of her family’s films, such as Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” and Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette,” are well known. Eleanor Coppola is married to Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola wrote “Paris Can Wait” as a way to explore her own stifled creativity after spending so much time on her family, inspired by a personal experience.
“Paris Can Wait,” Diane Lane’s follow-up to “Under the Tuscan Sun,” is yet another example of her versatility as a woman finding herself while away from home.
13. Enough Said
Nicole Holofcener, the writer-director, is well-known for romantic comedies that strike the perfect balance between levity and heartbreak. Her 2013 film “Enough Said” is no exception. In the film, massage therapist Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has a teenage daughter who is about to leave home for college.
She meets Albert at a party one night (James Gandolfini). They begin to date, and Eva soon learns that Albert is the ex-husband of Marianne (Catherine Keener), a new client and friend who Eva uses to learn more about Albert’s past life. Because of this knowledge gap and her daughter’s impending departure, Eva learns that sometimes letting go of control is the best thing she can do.
James Gandolfini’s final film role was in “Enough Said,” which was released after his death and thus dedicated to him as a tribute film. In contrast to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who is well-known for her ability to handle comedic material, James Gandolfini’s sweetness comes as a surprise to anyone who has seen “The Sopranos” more than once a year.
Aside from the two leads, Toni Colette, Ben Falcone, and Michaela Watson all contribute greatly to the film’s foundation. Nicole Holofcener is a master of the female-centered romance, and she proves it once more in this novel.
In 2001, it seemed as if “Amélie,” Jean-Pierre Jaunet’s surreal look at the life of an overly imaginative, highly introverted French woman, could not be separated from the public consciousness. As Amélie, Audrey Tautou portrays a young woman who is equally at home in fantasy and realism and who is dedicated to bringing joy to those around her.
Amélie is a cunning con artist who brings people together without their knowledge while constantly trying to influence the course of events in order to benefit herself (typically for the greater good). Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz) teaches her that she is the puppet master of her own life when she first meets him. She has no idea how powerful she is until she meets Nino.
Delicatessen (1991) and The City of the Lost Children (1997) are two of Jean-Pierre Jaunet’s more distinctive films (1995). Amélie, one of the highest grossing French-language films in the US and one of the most successful French films ever, drew in a global audience with its offbeat style and a $10 million budget with $174 million in ticket sales.
There were four César awards and five Academy Award nominations for the film, including Best Original Screenplay. In contrast to the protagonist of “Under the Tuscan Sun,” Amélie does not have to leave her hometown in order to discover who she is. Instead, she invents a parallel universe within the one she already inhabits.