– Summary –
Director : Julio Medem
Year Of Release : 2010
Principal Cast : Elena Anaya, Natasha Yarovenko, Enrico lo Verso.
Approx Running Time : 109 Minutes
Synopsis: Two women spend a night of passion, conversation, and illumination in a hotel room in Rome.
What we think : Gorgeously shot, Room In Rome is driven by character while maintaining the allure of an “arthouse” film by including plenty of nudity. The two actresses do a good job of bringing more depth to their characters than the overt nudity might otherwise allow – this is about two people finding each other for the briefest of moments. In this regard, Room In Rome is an at-times moving, often beautiful film.
What I wouldn’t give to have a webcam in this hotel.
Forgive the euphemism, but this film was… ahem.. hard to watch. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, because I did, but it was just hard to watch. I say this because for the majority of the time the two female leads prance about their hotel room in various states of undress – often full frontal – and this leaves me, a red-blooded heterosexual male, with a conundrum: do I watch the boobies, or do I watch the story? 90 minutes of film where the leads are both nude, often engaging in some quite explicit performances, and you want me to watch this for the story? Okay, then, I’ll try.
Two women, Alba (Elena Anaya) and Natasha (Natasha Yarovenko) join up at a club on their last night in Rome; together, they go back to Alba’s hotel room where they engage in a casual sexual affair, an affair to which Natasha seems resistant thanks to a hidden pain, while Alba has emotional problems of her own. As the two talk and bond throughout the night, they uncover truths about each other that reveals much more than either of them ever thought they’d divulge.
I’m all for nudity in films. I think there should be more of it. But, in light of Room In Rome’s almost feature-length nudity run, I’m inclined to consider that perhaps in a major mainstream-ish film the nudity needs context. Nudity for the sake of it, just to shock and titillate, wears out its welcome quite quickly, especially when it becomes a distraction, and I was most certainly distracted watching this film. The story, as convoluted character-wise as it is, seemed secondary to the fact that the two women were…. gulp… naked. And getting jiggy, if the Will Smith euphemism still works. Alba’s pain at recent personal loss, both of her former female lover and her lover’s young boy, is central to the film’s emotional arc, while Natasha’s insistence that she’s “not a lesbian” because she’s getting married in several weeks is the key driver to Alba’s seduction of her.
When they’re not making love, the two women spend their time talking, mainly about their issues (and for a guy, that’s normally not what we want to see, although in this case, it’s essential to the plot) and revealing tidbits to each other – they lie about things, cry and generally behave like this night is a one-night stand, which it is; however, as the night progresses and the women become more intimate emotionally, it evolves into something approximating love. As a story, the film’s talky points are generally fairly plain. The scripting isn’t revelatory, although to Western eyes it might appear somewhat shocking. It’s occasionally bawdy, usually serendipitous, and inevitably sexy. Written by the director, Julia Medem, the script inserts passion and lust alongside a desire for emotional release, and although the constant nudity in the film can be distracting to the execution of this, generally things work pretty well. I won’t say I was enthralled with it, but it served the film well.
Serving the film even better than the script is the performances of the two leads, Elena Anaya, and Natasha Yarovenko. These two women are absolutely stunning: Anaya is the dark haired temptress, while Yarovenko is the tall, leggy blonde bombshell whose fear of being a lesbian leads to some innocently cute moments early in the piece. They aren’t horrible to look at naked, either. They seem to have a genuine screen connection, which isn’t surprising considering just how intimate they get throughout the film, which helps the film’s often awkward situational moments feel more realistic. Anaya’s emotional issues are superbly rendered by Anaya, who really is the lynchpin of the film as far as I am concerned. She says so much with her face (her face, you guys!) that is unsaid verbally, it’s astounding. Yarovenko delivers a solid performance too, although her side of the story isn’t as affecting or as well defined as Anaya’s. Enrico Lo Verso has a smiling, singing time as Max, the hotel attendant who at first thinks he’s “in with a chance” to have a threesome, but in the end realizes that he’s not gonna get any, in what is essentially a tension-breaking role between Alba and Natasha.
Julio Medem lenses this film with an exquisite eye. Regardless of your leanings towards sex on film, this movie looks goreous. Being set largely at night, the film’s lighting style is defined simply by it’s locale and premise – they’re inside a hotel room, with only the lamps and exterior glow of Rome’s skyline to light their way. Medem’s use of focus, his ability to convey the emotion of a scene with an edit and an angle are sublime. Personally, I’d hate to have to make one of these films where there’s only one setting, because you rapidly run out of different angles to keep audences invested. Medem does exceptionally well, with his camera remaining intimate to the situation, never ghoulish or extravagant, giving the film a soft, lilting quality. Medem’s camera never objectifies the women, turning them into pieces of meat for us to leer at; rather, he remains significantly involved in their story, giving the soft-focus flavor of the visual tone a kind of sensual camaraderie as the movie unfolds. A side note: I really enjoyed the work of composer Joselyn Pook, who’s mesmerizing score (accompanying several sweet Italian melodies) is a real joy to listen to.
Room In Rome is definitely a film of exhausting concentration. If you’re a normal guy who likes naked women, this film might sound like it’s right up your alley, but be warned. It’s a film that tells a story first, with nudity the secondary concern. Sure, ostensibly it might not appear that way, and the constant nudity is certainly distracting if not entirely arousing, but the characters themselves become less objectifiable as you get to know them. It’s an interesting way of film-making, I think, to make the nudity so blase, so redundant to the viewer, that you focus on the story itself by the time the end of the film arrives. Medem doesn’t turn his women into objects of lust, at least, not that I could determine; they’re characters in a story, primarily. Personally, I thought the story itself was a little weak, with some contrived conversation elements that I felt didn’t work well, but I can see what Medem was aiming at. If you like some casual titillation and a fairly well constructed storyline, then Room In Rome is definitely a good watch.