E. M. Forster - Wikimedia
E. M. Forster’s novel, written in 1908, is still relevant today as it speaks of English manners and situations prevalent at the turn of the century and which are still in use in the present day. The twosome Merchant Ivory directed the film which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture that year.
Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) and her chaperone, an older cousin named Charlotte Bartlett (Dame Maggie Smith) embarked on a trip to Italy with the aid of Baedeker’s Guide which is similar to Fodor’s Travel Guidebook used today in our country.
Helena Bonham Carter - Wikimedia
When the duo arrive at their Pensione, Charlotte is disappointed that they do not have a room with a view of the Arno River in Italy. Upon mentioning it at dinner that evening, Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliott), an English traveler also, offers to trade the room which he and his son George (Julian Sands) have been issued. Charlotte thinks it was rude of him to offer to trade, thus placing the two women in a position of being in debt to the Emersons. Lucy feels otherwise and the trade is made.
Lucy and Charlotte soon become acquainted with their fellow travelers staying at the Pensione, which includes a famous novelist, Eleanor Lavish (Dame Judi Dench in her earlier days), as well as the charming Reverend Beebe and the two elderly single ladies, the Miss Alans.
Out on a walk through the fields one day, Lucy comes upon George Emerson who daringly walks up to Lucy and kisses her passionately. She is astounded but even more fretful when she notices that Charlotte had been walking behind her and witnessed the outrage. Back at the Pensione, the women both agreed that they would not communicate the offense to Lucy’s mother who would blame Charlotte for being deficient in her chaperone duties. Charlotte feels that George is an undesirable character. However, Lucy is secretly drawn to him.
Back again on English soil, Lucy receives a proposal of marriage from a stiff and stodgy, albeit wealthy friend, Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis), and accepts the proposal. Their first kiss was a catastrophe as Cecil’s eyeglasses fell off in what should have been a significant romantic moment.
Daniel Day-Lewis - Wikimedia
Lucy and Charlotte learn that the Emersons, George and his father, have taken a cottage in the town where Mr. Emerson can retire and where George can visit him on the weekends. Lucy’s mother and brother are quite taken with George who comes to their place to play tennis. Cecil, a bookish sort, does not participate in the tennis matches, and watches as he reads his book.
Cecil has chosen a book by Eleanor Lavish, the novelist who was at the Pensione with Lucy and Charlotte. Cecil quoted Eleanor’s words to Lucy, which she recognized as an exact replica of the incident in Italy when Charlotte came upon Lucy and George in a passionate embrace. She accused Charlotte of relating the story to Eleanor, who used the incident in her latest novel, breaking Charlotte’s vow never to speak of the event to anyone. Charlotte admitted her fault and apologized.
George dared to approach Lucy again on their property and boldly told her that Cecil is not the man for her, and that something beautiful has happened between themselves. His long tirade stated that Cecil did not appreciate her and regarded her as just an ornament on his arm. Lucy sensed that George was correct in his assessment and broke off her engagement to Cecil, who was a gentleman when he received the news.
An unusual scene was included in this film. George, Mr. Beebe, and Lucy’s brother, went swimming in the pond on the Honeychurch’s property and started chasing each other around the pond, in the nude. The episode was partially hidden by the bushes surrounding the pond, but a considerable number of film shots revealed the frontal nudity of all three of the gentlemen. Of course, Lucy came upon the scene and was appropriately astonished.
Distraught over her life-changing occurrences, Lucy pleads to join the Miss Alans on a trip to Greece to regain her dignity and avoid the questions of friends and family. She is also distressed that the Emersons have decided to leave the cottage that they had rented.
Of course, the story has a pleasant ending which will not be explained here.
In my research, I came to learn that Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench have been life-long friends for over sixty years. They have co-starred in several films, including Ladies in Lavender (2004), Tea with Mussolini (1999), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011), and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015), as well as this 1985 film, A Room with a View. Maggie Smith won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Rome in A Room with a View.
I venture to say that this film could be called “a romp,” and I enjoyed every minute of it. I believe I saw it when it was first viewed by the public in 1985, but the second time around was far more enjoyable.