A Room with a View (1986)

The manners and manias of polite Edwardian society are studiously dissected in this typical Merchant-Ivory period drama, a handsomely mounted adaptation of E.M. Forster’s 1908 novel.

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“An intellectual film, but intellectual about emotions: it encourages us to think about how we feel, instead of simply acting on our feelings.”
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 1986

In turn-of-the-century Italy with her maiden aunt, young Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) is courted by the romantic George (Julian Sands). Although his sudden kiss in a barley field awakens longings of her own, she goes home to Surrey and gets engaged to priggish Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day Lewis) – at which point George reappears.

James Ivory’s direction is characteristically cool and polished, and the film’s good looks won it two Oscars. There’s quiet humour in the foibles of Lucy’s purse-lipped entourage, but her wavering between familiar confinement and the possibility of a wider life – both implicit in the title – feels more theoretical than vital to her well-being. Still, the film has a happier ending than the book.

Following David Lean’s version of E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India (1984), Merchant-Ivory adapted three of the author’s novels, including Maurice (1987) and Howards End (1991).

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