James Ivory



Helena Bonham Carter

Julian Sands

Maggie Smith

Daniel Day-Lewis

Judi Dench

Denholm Elliott

Simon Callow

Rosemary Callow

Rupert Graves









1 Hr., 56 Mins.

Julian Sands and Helena Bonham Carter in 1985's "A Room with a View."

A Room with a View July 5, 2018  

gotten to know Lucy, and has, behind closed doors, decided that he is in love with her. He gulps. He walks in her direction. Then he takes her in his arms and kisses her.


Lucy is attracted to George too. But she is aware that throwing caution to the wind and really pursuing a romance with him might not be in her best interest. She is on vacation, first of all. But there are other considerations to be made. George is forward-thinking and artistically minded, contrasting with the conservative, practicality-obsessed culture that defines the dying Victorian norm of which Lucy is part. There could be an uproar if she and George decided to engage in something. So she allows the moment to remain a fleeting one, to be savored only in memory.


Months later, Lucy’s life goes back to normal. Upon returning home, she starts courting the sedate and feminine Cecil (Daniel Day-Lewis, monocled), who’d rather read the dry patois comprising literary masterpieces than think for himself. After some time dating, marriage starts looking imminent. And Lucy, knowing that the affluent Cecil will at the very least offer her financial comfort, reasons that committing to him is probably the best thing to do, even though she isn’t in love with him. Sometimes, though, she thinks about George, and how he let his passion and admiration for her be known with no hesitation. How he genuinely seemed to care for her. Cecil, meanwhile, can hardly kiss her. He likely considers her ornamental.


Then George charges back into Lucy’s life. He and his father (Denholm Elliott), an idiosyncratic idealist who just goes by the family’s name, Emerson, purchase a cottage in the neighborhood. George knows the woman he loves is now being romanced by another. He doesn’t care. In one memorable scene, he evinces his affections by delivering a rousing speech in which he lets on that he thinks he and Lucy belong together. She’s moved. So she contemplates.


A Room with a View, a lush romantic film directed by the great James Ivory, mostly moves in this way. Our female protagonist is partially strapped to her repressed, moneyed upbringing, but longs to escape into a life wherein she can freely express her thoughts without being hushed by those who consider them out of pocket. George essentially makes for an embodied door that leads to a future she’d like to experience. But Lucy must wonder: does she really love George, or is she unfairly pinning her desires on him?


The film ruminates. It is traditionally structured, yet it in some ways looks like a series of sketches. Sometimes it constitutes both the frivolities and dangers of the class system of the era. In other moments, it is a romantic hullabaloo. There is a scene wherein Sands, a spirited reverend played by Simon Callow, and Lucy’s Rupert Graves-portrayed brother go skinny dipping, and then the feature becomes a farce. The movie is aware of the miseries and hypocrisies of upper-class living at the turn of the century and often makes fun of them. But it is still aware of the tolls they can have on those who long to break free from them.


A Room with a View is an oddity in the romance genre; it is more psychic than visceral. While George’s lust for Lucy (and the other way around) is clear, there is much thought put into what this romance means to the both of them. What the effects of pursuing a relationship would be. The idea that love can solve all is challenged.


The ending hints that maybe it can after all. But the movie evades customary genre trappings so incisively, it comes to look like a new kind of rom-dram. Its screenwriter, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who won an Oscar for her work, carefully adapts the 1908 novel on which the feature is based, directly lifting dialogue in many cases. The sensibilities of the book’s author, E.M. Forster, remain. And they fuse beautifully with the personal flourishes of Ivory and his producing and life partner, Ismail Merchant.


The Merchant-Ivory partnership, usually aided by the screenplays of Jhabvala, began in the early 1960s and continued well into the 2000s, concluding with The White Countess, in 2005. But the films the company put out in the 1980s and ‘90s, which famously include Maurice (1987), Howard’s End (1992), and The Remains of the Day (1993), are the ones most commonly regarded as the collective pinnacle of the collaborative output. A Room with a View, sumptuous and sagacious, is arguably the crux — a sensitive but perceptive romantic feature that isn’t just a high point for Merchant-Ivory, but also for the genre — and in the decade — as a whole. It is not to be missed. A-


here is a moment in James Ivory’s opulent A Room with a View (1985) during which a young man is overcome with passion. The young man is named George (Julian Sands), and he is standing in the middle of a sun-dappled, swirling sea of poppy-festooned grass which matches the extraordinary glint of his golden hair. Standing opposite him is Lucy (Helena Bonham Carter), a virtuous young woman on holiday with her staid older cousin (Maggie Smith) for the next few weeks.


The two are alone. George is transfixed. For the last few days, he has