Room With a View, A (1985)

Room With a View, A (1985)

“He’s the sort who can’t know anyone intimately, least of all a woman.”

When a British woman (Helena Bonham Carter) travelling in Italy with her spinster aunt (Maggie Smith) encounters a free-spirited young man (Julian Sands) staying with his father (Denholm Elliott) in the same rooming house, she becomes confused about her feelings for Sands, and rushes into a formal engagement with her priggish suitor (Daniel Day-Lewis) once she’s back home.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Coming of Age
  • Denholm Elliott Films
  • Historical Drama
  • Love Triangle
  • Maggie Smith Films
  • Merchant Ivory Films
  • Romantic Comedy

Director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant’s adaptation of E.M. Forster’s 1908 novel — scripted by their longtime collaborator, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala — was their breakthrough box office success, earning them 8 Oscar nominations (it won 3 — for costume design, art direction, and adapted screenplay). It also offered Helena Bonham Carter her first major role — and she’s perfectly cast as a sheltered but passionate young woman whose sexual awakening and coming of age are precipitated by two key events in Italy: witnessing a brutal stabbing on the streets of Florence, and being kissed in a field by Sands.

She gradually comes to realize that the man she believes she should marry (Day-Lewis) is nothing close to who she actually wants to be with:

… though it’s far from easy for her to acknowledge this openly — a tension which drives the entire screenplay. While the storyline is rather thin in major plot points, it’s richly textured, and populated by numerous quirky supporting characters — including Maggie Smith as Lucy’s manipulative aunt:

… Simon Callow as a local reverend who seems to always be hovering around the periphery of events:

… Judi Dench as the novelist “Eleanor Lavish”:

… Denholm Elliott as Sands’ father, “Mr. Emerson”:

… and Rupert Graves (in his debut role) as Lucy’s hyper-active brother. (The scene in which he, Sands, and Callow frolic nude in the lake is refreshingly unfiltered.)

Day-Lewis’s snobby “Cecil Vyse” — played for laughs — is ultimately too outrageous to generate much sympathy; but we fall for gorgeous Sands, and are glad to see him returning time and again into Lucy’s life: this is a romantic pairing we very much want to see succeed.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch
  • Julian Sands as George Emerson
  • Fine cinematography and location shooting

Must See?
Yes. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.


  • Genuine Classic

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


One thought on “Room With a View, A (1985)

  1. Agreed, a once-must as a worthy adaptation.

    Oddly enough… though I think it’s a fine film, it’s also one that I don’t feel the urge to revisit. ~ which probably says more about me than about the film. Of the 3 Forster adaptations that Ivory directed, I’ve revisited both ‘Maurice’ and ‘Howards End’ more often. That said, a number of cast members in ‘Room’ deliver exemplary work, esp. Carter, Smith, Dench and Elliott.

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