In your mind's eye, picture yourself in California just after the Allied victory of World War II. It was a time of hope and a time to dream, when almost anything seemed possible. It was in this environment that returning American G.I. Paul Sutton (Keanu Reeves) found himself. Unfortunately, like many other casualties of war, he was trapped by a quick wartime marriage with a woman who no longer loved him nor shared his dreams and hopes for the future. Nevertheless, being a man of honour, he set out to do the right thing by her and began again to sell boxes of fine chocolates, manufactured in San Francisco. On his journey to San Francisco to start his new job, he suddenly becomes enmeshed in the affairs of a young college lady (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) returning home to her parents in the Napa Valley.
A gentleman's agreement sends Paul Sutton on a journey that will change his life. He learns of rituals, familial bonds, wine, and love while pretending to be Victoria's husband to her staunchly religious Mexican-American family. Her father (Giancarlo Giannini),a rather conservative man of the times, is less than pleased with the young couple's "marriage." In Victoria's grandfather (Anthony Quinn), head of the family clan, Paul Sutton finds an unsuspected friend -- a man who has not forgotten what youth and love are about.
The photography of this movie is breathtakingly stunning. Even if you have chanced to visit the Napa region in California before, you probably have never seen it quite so vividly aglow with beauty and light, whether during the fiery glow of sunset or the middle of the day.
The story itself will likely appeal to women, as we are often suckers for a love story, and this one has all the right ingredients -- a cute guy, romantic music (you must hear Anthony Quinn et al. singing!), stunning scenery, and a seemingly hopeless situation. Nonetheless, in Reeves' first serious role as an upstanding American boy longing for something better out of his life, he comes across as being stiff and wooden, out of his milieu. Anthony Quinn as the grandfather of the winery clan does a splendid job of portraying the oft-attempted leap between generations and customs, witnessed in intercultural liaisons of the heart.
I can only give this three stars out of five. It will make a fine movie for taking your girl out on a date or for a girls' night out at the theatre. Otherwise, I would recommend waiting for the video release and enjoying that on a snuggly evening home with your lover.