1980's, A Room with a View, Daniel Day-Lewis, Denholm Elliott, Helena Bonham Carter, James Ivory, Judi Dench, Julian Sands, Maggie Smith, Merchant Ivory, Period Drama, Romance, Rupert Graves, Simon Callow
A Room with a View
- Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch
- Julian Sands as George Emerson
- Maggie Smith as Charlotte Bartlett
- Daniel Day-Lewis as Cecil Vyse
- Denholm Elliott as Mr. Emerson
- Simon Callow as The Reverend Mr. Beebe
- Judi Dench as Eleanor Lavish
- Rupert Graves as Freddy Honeychurch
The film that established Merchant Ivory as excellent purveyors of the period drama and brought them to international acclaim, A Room with a View is a marvellously witty, engaging and romantic story of a young girl’s awakening in a restrictive society. Based on the novel by E.M. Forster, A Room with a View is a romantic period drama at its best, complete with wonderful scenery, cracking script and committed work from the cast.
The setting is the Edwardian Era, which is restrictive and stifling. Young and pretty Lucy Honeychurch is on holiday in Florence with her much older cousin Charlotte Bartlett, who acts as a chaperon. Charlotte is a fussy women who believes in abiding by rules to a strict degree and so keeps Lucy on a tight leash. Lucy herself is a repressed young girl who doesn’t know a lot about the world and is quite impressionable. While in Florence, the two meet a whole host of different characters; most prominently the free-thinking Mr Emerson and his quiet, thoughtful son George. There is an immediate spark between George and Lucy, but because of the conventions of the time, Lucy puts these feelings off, due to her naivety and the buttoned-up nature of the society she has been brought up in. Eventually, George expresses his love to her by passionately kissing her while everyone is exploring the Italian countryside. Uptight Charlotte witnesses this act and whisks Lucy back to England as quickly as she can; warning her that she shouldn’t speak about her actions to anyone. But reluctant Lucy finds it hard to forget her encounter with George, as it has left a deep mark on her. Later, back in England, Lucy has put the memory of Florence to the back of her mind and is engaged to the snobbish and priggish Cecil Vyse, who views most things and people with contempt. Although not passionately in love with the disagreeable Cecil, Lucy is engaged as it is deemed a socially acceptable match. Things appear to be going swimmingly, until it is revealed that the new tenants moving into nearby house are Mr. Emerson and George, who carries a torch for Lucy still from Florence. Lucy is put into a tailspin over what to do and must choose between her upbringing and her heart. But which will Lucy choose as she begins to awaken to the fact that rules and stifling society aren’t everything in life?
The combination of director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is an inspired one that brings Forster’s tale of buried passions beginning to surface and the stiff upper lip of the Edwardian Era to life. The direction from James Ivory is paced with a deliberate but effective pace, that charts Lucy’s blossoming into a woman and the decision that only she can make. I admired how Ivory was not in a rush to tell the story and made it thoroughly engaging throughout. He also makes stunning use of both the English countryside and the beauty and freedom of Florence, which if anything act as ends of the spectrum in terms of emotion on display. In England, emotions are kept carefully under wraps by a society that prides itself on rigid conventions(embodied the most by Charlotte), while the scenes in Florence have emotions reaching a crescendo of passion and expression. Adapting the story from the source, Prawer Jhabvala’s witty and insightful script(which garnered an Oscar) splendidly pokes fun at the stuffiness of Edwardian times, while balancing the romance at the heart of it that provides the catalyst for Lucy to open up and feel passion instead of forceful rules. Operatic arias and wistful strings on the score provide A Room with a View with a blithely enjoyable, romantic and delightful quality. The costume design is simply beautiful and authentic in equal measure, down to the last hem and frill that deservedly collected an Oscar. Also winning an Oscar was the art direction, which is also a marvel to behold for the splendour of it.
Assembled and all well provided for by the source material, the cast is utterly splendid down to the smallest role. In her breakthrough role, Helena Bonham Carter is simply lovely and wonderful as Lucy. Imbuing her with a girlish temperament and slowly evolving passion that is awoken by George, Bonham Carter succeeds in bringing about Lucy’s subtle change to life and she does it with graceful aplomb. As she is the beating heart of the story the character of Lucy needed someone to make an indelible image and boy did Helena Bonham Carter deliver it and then some. Julian Sands is quiet yet full of soulful passion as George, who serves as the intrusion into Lucy’s restricted world and the one who challenges her. The always excellent and dependable Maggie Smith has fun with the part of Charlotte, who is obstinate in her belief of following the rules society had for everyone. Making a huge impression is the ever versatile Daniel Day-Lewis, who essays the role of contemptible Cecil. With a smarmy accent, dissatisfaction with everything and sneering glances, Day-Lewis crafts an effortless portrait of a privileged individual, stuck on his high horse and unable to get off. Denholm Elliott as the garrulous Mr. Emerson, as well as Simon Callow as a gossipy Reverend are fine additions to a distinguished cast. Also there is the reliable Judi Dench; exuding imagination and gleeful intelligence as the romance author in Florence and Rupert Graves, all puppy eyes and enthusiasm as Lucy’s playful brother Freddy.
Wonderfully rendered with a feeling for the time in which it is set and the examination of both cultures clashing, following ones heart and archaic society, A Room with a View is a thoroughly delightful film.