Director: James Ivory
Cast: Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Denholm Elliott,
Julian Sands, Simon Callow, Rupert Graves, Judi Dench,
Daniel Day Lewis
Winner of 3 Academy Awards and nominated for 8,
including Best Picture and Best Director.
Winner of 4 BAFTAS including Best Film, Best Actress
and Best supporting Actress and nominated for 13.
Winner, Best Picture, National Board of Review.
Winner Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.
The opulence of Florence, all of its classic beauty, which words truly don’t make any justice, paired (not
compared) with the charm of the English countryside make more than enough reason to see this film.
Luckily this is not the best thing in the movie. Lucy Honeychurch, a young English woman, (Carter) takes a
trip to Italy (with her chaperon) and is changed by her experiences there, after witnessing a murder and
meeting a “different” man. Staying in a pension they meet a wonderful array of characters, including a free
thinking novelist (the scene stealing Judi Dench), an old man (Elliott) and his young son (Sands) who falls
for Lucy. A couple of old ladies and a liberal Reverend (perfectly played by Simon Callow)
When she returns to England Lucy must resume her normal life, marry the wrong guy (Day Lewis) for the
wrong reasons and continue her very English life. Things get interesting when the people from the pension
start returning to Lucy’s English existence, not really turning it upside down, but turning it into what it
should have been.
Made by the team of Merchant Ivory (which assures the elegance of the film), at first glance this may look
almost snobbish or unreachable, but seeing this movie something miraculous happens, the people and the
whole context evolve as well as the characters, and at first this lush, upper crusty work turns into a sweet,
The book on which its based, an incredibly poignant social commentary by E.M Forster, is fully captured,
almost perfectly I would say, this is one of those rare feats when the book and the movie are equally good,
in this case, equally great.
Set in a society which valued common sense and class above all, this works wonders criticizing the very
roots of its existence.
People valued superficial behaviors, and in that the world hasn’t really changed, but became surprised to
discover that “things that are indelicate can sometimes be beautiful”. And in changing from the exuberant
Italy to the restrained but equally passionate England, we can see all the same behaviors used to identify
people to others and curiously to themselves as well. The film however never imposes a tag on them, it just
shows them as they are if they existed. We can’t judge them, because it seems unfair. The whole ensemble
is perfect! Beginning with the radiant Helena Bonham Carter, who represents a heroine with as much an
internal struggle as an external appeal, she plays the piano with such a passion as the very passion she lacks
in life, fortunately in the end music and life do mingle and the results is enchanting if not to say perfect.
Maggie Smith is fantastic as Charlotte, Lucy’s spinster cousin who gets on everyone’s nerves with her
attention to tactless things. She is sort of funny but she is also intensely heartbreaking as a person who has
almost stopped living her own life. The reasons for her spinsterhood are kept to herself, but we know she’s
been through life and maybe she’s seen things too dark for her to tell.
Denholm Elliott is really good as Mr. Emerson, a “queer type” who possesses a knowledge that is almost
enviable. Simon Callow is brilliant, his attitude towards living is priceless.
Julian Sands as George is quieter than the rest of the characters, but we know behind that simple facade
lies the inevitable desire to live life truly.
Day Lewis is the anti snobbish, snob Cecil, who has decided to give himself a state of superiority by
distinctively judging and by it being better than the rest of the people.
The way the dialogues come out of these characters is enough to leave you either laughing or crying with
all the rich content and the truth they speak! The film is not too literate, even though it’s divided in chapters
and all and it has a conscience for all the things that are beautiful, but reminds us that more than having a
room with a beautiful view, the view that is important is actually the one we decide to look at.
Disguised as a mere romantic comedy, it’s an essay at the consistent search for the humanity in all of us.
Lucy finds it almost instantly, while in Italy, but the film’s beauty lies in her realizing she has found it
already. And in us realizing we don’t have to go to Italy to find it.