By Tim Barlow
Let’s cut to the chase, I enjoyed A Room with a View, a movie I had never seen (or even heard of) before it showed up on Craig’s list. But I liked it. Filled with quirky odd, almost Dickensian characters, whose eccentricities seem to operate independently of any back story we, the viewer, are privy. And these characters are brought to life by a cast chock full of bona fide legends: Dame Judy Dench, the dowager, the countess of Grantham herself, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott (Marcus Brody in the Indiana Jones series), a deliciously dandied Daniel Day Lewis, a not-yet-ruined by Tim Burton, Helena Bonham Carter, I could go on, but suffice to say, this cast is deep…and British; I half expected a young Hugh Grant to show up at some point serving tea and stammering on (charmingly of course) about a carriage ride.
And this VERY British cast delivers what can only be described as a classic Shakespearean-inspired romance plot, filled with missed connections, changes in heart, will they/won’t they glances, knowing flirtation, a current fiance (who is just all kinds of wrong), pleads to follow your heart, and so and so forth. And all this seems to take place in between Italian holidays and waiting on the staff to bring tea ‘round. On the surface there’s no, or at least there doesn’t appear to be any political agenda. There’s no controversy. Nothing which could cause an argument in the car on the way home from the theater. Just charming English innocence, the kind that would have a scene where three men (including a priest) swim naked and wrestle like carefree Greeks in a hidden forest stream. You just don’t get movies with that level of innocence, anymore.
But this surface innocence, again, delivered flawlessly with well-timed (extra-dry) Queen’s-grade wit, hides a commentary far more stirring, and every bit appropriate to life today.
There are several societal mores showing up in this movie’s cross hairs, but the one that hit home most for me (and perhaps for Craig as well), is our tendency to not only act with our head rather than our hearts, but to hold such analytic and pragmatic reasoning as a more valuable condition. As if to say, that to act with impulse and desire and earnestness is for the heathens or the naive, not a proper gentleman or lady of good upbringing. Within the film, George Emerson discovers this truth (after witnessing, what can only be describe as, a truly odd Piazza murder sequence), and it drives him to evolve from mopey to passionate in the first act. This same struggle of the heart eats away at our heroine, Lucy Honeychurch more slowly, causing complications right up until the end. Here it is summarized with clairvoyant purpose by George’s father, in a line delivered to Lucy early on: “At the side of the everlasting “why?”, there is a “yes.” I love that. Not only does it serve as a direct challenge to my need to know and evaluate all the outcomes before making a choice, but it places positive action on equal footing as analysis. Beside the “Why”. Not after, not because of, beside it, there is a “Yes.”
Maybe that’s not really what he meant at all, and more research is required to truly know if I’m doubling down on a point that was never intended. But I think, for this once at least, I’ll leave it there. So, no further questions, gov’nor.