It may be hard to keep a goofy grin from your face after watching Queen of Hearts. The story of an Italian family living in London’s Soho section, it flirts with gushy sentimentality and sitcom contrivances. But what saves it from being a British version of Moonstruck is the resonant, graceful style of director Jon Amiel (The Singing Detective), who has a gift for blending the fanciful and the mundane.
The opening sequence shows two desperate lovers, Danilo (Joseph Long) and Rosa (Anita Zangara), in a death-defying escape from their village in Italy. It’s done with such perfect, operatic pitch that you may think you’re seeing a master Italian director at work. But soon Danilo and Rosa are making a new life for themselves and their four children, the youngest of whom, Eddie (Ian Hawkes), becomes the movie’s voice.
Tony Grisoni’s screenplay sometimes seems like an Italo-British version of The Waltons. But just when you think the movie is about to bog down in soap opera, Amiel gently plants something astonishing. The story creaks a little toward the end, and a small screen tends to restrict some of Amiel’s rich visuals. But you’re so relieved to find it isn’t as corny as it could have been, that you end up giving in to the enchantment. B+