Lucy Honeychurch, a young, upper-class Edwardian woman is trying to sort out her burgeoning romantic feelings, divided between an enigmatic free spirit she meets on vacation in Florence and the priggish bookworm to whom she becomes engaged back in Surrey. Adapted from E. M. Forster’s 1908 novel.
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All these years later, surely it’s time to sweep aside the preconceptions and see the film for what it is: fresh, sophisticated, and above all, passionate. And that A Room With a View is also lovely to look at detracts neither from its comic wisdom nor its status as one of the best movies of the ’80s.
The film leaves the spectator with an overwhelming impression of being entirely suffused with heart-lifting, open-air sunlight—not unlike, in this respect, some of the masterworks of Renoir or Rohmer. Yet revisiting A Room with a View, thirty years on, one is struck not only by the glorious sunlight but equally by an effervescent lightness of tone—and a sense that the film has weathered the years without, in any significant way, growing old or stale.
Part of Merchant Ivory’s gift was recognizing which masterpieces of world literature would translate well, providing material that can actually be photographed in addition to superlative prose (which can’t). A Room With A View, with its clash between stiff propriety and unruly passion, was ideal, and also provided a superb showcase for some of England’s greatest actors, few of whom were well known at the time.