A Room with a View
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Ivory
Screenplay byRuth Prawer Jhabvala
Produced byIsmail Merchant
CinematographyTony Pierce-Roberts
Edited byHumphrey Dixon
Music by
Distributed byCurzon Film Distributors
Release dates
  • 13 December 1985 (1985-12-13) (RCFP)
  • 11 April 1986 (1986-04-11)
Running time
117 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
  • £2.3 million
  • ($3 million)[2][3]
Box office$21 million[2]

A Room with a View is a 1985 British romance film directed by James Ivory with a screenplay written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and produced by Ismail Merchant, of E. M. Forster's novel of the same name (1908). It stars Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy and Julian Sands as George, and features Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott, Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench and Simon Callow in supporting roles.

Set in England and Italy, it is about a young woman named Lucy Honeychurch in the restrictive and repressed culture of Edwardian England, and her developing love for a free-spirited young man, George Emerson. The film closely follows the novel by use of chapter titles to distinguish thematic segments.

A Room with a View received universal critical acclaim and was a box-office success. At the 59th Academy Awards, it was nominated for eight Academy Awards (including Best Picture), and won three: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, and Best Costume Design. It also won five British Academy Film Awards and a Golden Globe. In 1999, the British Film Institute placed A Room with a View 73rd on its list of the Top 100 British films of the 20th century.


In 1907 a young English girl, Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter), and her spinster cousin and chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett (Maggie Smith), stay at the Pensione Bertolini while vacationing in Florence. They are disappointed as their rooms do not have a view on the Arno as they had expected. At dinner time at the pensione, they meet other English guests: the Reverend Mr. Beebe (Simon Callow), the two Misses Alan (Fabia Drake and Joan Henley), the author Eleanor Lavish (Judi Dench), the freethinking Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliott) and his handsome, philosophical son, George (Julian Sands). As Lucy would have liked a room with a view, Mr. Emerson offers to exchange rooms. Charlotte is offended, believing him to be most indelicate, but through Mr. Beebe's mediation the switch is made. The next day while touring the city at the Piazza della Signoria, Lucy witnesses a man being stabbed close to her. Shocked by the incident, she faints but is rescued by George Emerson. Something important has happened between them, he assures her as he helps her.

George and Lucy get together again when they both form part of the group of British tourist at the pensione that take a day trip to Fiesole countryside. While Charlotte is busy listening to the intense romantic novelist Eleanor Lavish, Lucy wanders around looking for Mr. Beebe. The coach driver, misunderstanding Lucy, directs her to George instead of Mr. Beebe. In a field of barley, George suddenly embraces and passionately kisses Lucy as she approaches him. Charlotte has followed Lucy, witnesses the act, and quickly stops the intimacy. Alarmed for what has occurred, Charlotte makes Lucy promise secrecy and cut short their trip to Italy.

Upon returning to Surrey in England, Lucy tells her mother nothing and pretends to forget the incident. She accepts a marriage proposal from a wealthy and respectable but snobbish and pretentious man named Cecil Vyse (Daniel Day-Lewis). Cecil seems lacking in personality or emotion, and instead of playing tennis with her, prefers to walk around outside, reading aloud from a novel. However, she soon learns that George's father is moving to her small village and will be a neighbor due to a coincidence of Cecil having invited the Emersons, during a chance meeting in London, to rent an empty cottage in the village (an invitation which Lucy had already given to the Miss Alans). After Lucy's brother, Freddy (Rupert Graves), meets George, they and Mr. Beebe go skinnydipping in a nearby pond. Lucy, her mother, and Cecil go for a walk in the woods and come upon the three men cavorting in the nude.

The appearance of George in the village soon disrupts Lucy's plans and causes her suppressed feelings to resurface, complicated by the supposed need for secrecy. Lucy consistently refuses George's pursuit of her, but then she suddenly breaks off her engagement to Cecil and makes plans to visit Greece. George has also decided that he must move for peace of mind and makes arrangements. Lucy stops by Mr. Beebe's home and is confronted by George's father before the Emersons are to leave town. She suddenly realizes that the only reason that she planned to travel was to escape her feelings for George. At the end, we see George and Lucy in the Italian pension where they met, in the room with the view, happily married.



E. M. Forster began to write A Room with a View during a trip to Italy in the winter of 1901–02 when he was twenty-two. It was the first novel he worked on, however, he put it away before returning to it a few years later. Forster finished first two other novels: Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905) and then The Longest Journey (1907). A Room with a View was finally published in 1908. Set in Italy and England, A Room with a View follows Lucy Honeychurch, a proper young Englishwoman who discovers passion while on a trip to Italy. At her return to the restrained culture of Edwardian-era England, she must choose between two opposite men: the free-thinking George Emerson and the repressed aesthete Cecil Vyse. The story is both a romance and a humorous critique of English society at the beginning of the 20th century. The novel, Forster's third, was very well received, better than his previous two, but it is considered lighter than his two best-regarded later works Howards End (1910) and A Passage to India (1924). In Forster's own appreciation "A Room with a View, may not be his best, but may very well be his nicest".

Forster's early draft of the novel, entitled Lucy, has the triangle of Lucy, Miss Bartlett, and a shadowy George Emerson already in place, as well as the two Miss Alans and the novelist, Miss Lavish. In these first notes, the story begins in the Pensione Bertolini in Florence but breaks off before the return to England, and its various sketchy episodes bear little resemblance to the finished work. In 1903, Forster went on with his novel, and now Cecil Vyse makes his appearance, as well as old Mr. Emerson, Reverend Beebe, and Lucy's mother and brother Freddy. The action, commencing in Italy as before, is carried forward to England, but the plot was unresolved when Forster laid the novel away for the second time. In this version, the story ended tragically with George riding his bicycle into a tree during a storm. These early drafts have been published by Edward Arnold in The Lucy Novels (1977), edited by Oliver Stallybrass. In it, one may follow to some extent the development of the novel. He liked, too, the character of Lucy Honeychurch and, somewhat dyspeptically comparing her with the women in Howards End (1910), counting her as one of his few successes. The character of Lucy anticipates that of Adela Quested in A Passage To India, published in 1924. Both women seem to be fighting their own best natures, to be hysterically turning away from any kind of honest introspection, and at a crucial point in the story, to be embarking on an enterprise which will plunge them and everyone who loves them into misery. The Lucy Novels also contain some bits that were used in the film, not in the published novel. The scene between Lucy and the guide in Santa Croce, for instance, with its mishmash of Italian and pidgin English, is from Forster's notebook. It is revealing, too, about the originals of some of the characters: George Emerson began as Forster's Cambridge friend, Hugh Meredith, Forster designating the character by the initials H.O.M. in his notes. As a type, Miss Lavish was based on Emily Spender, a writer Forster and his mother met in their travels, swinging about in a military cape and affecting thin cigars in the pensione smoking room.

In 1946, 20th Century Fox offered $25.000 for the film rights of A Room with a View, but Foster did not hold cinema in high regard and refused even though the studio was willing to pay him even more.[4] Following Forster's death in 1970, the board of fellows of King's College at Cambridge inherited the rights to his books.[5] However, Donald A Parry, chief executor, turned down all approaches. Ten years later, the film rights for Forster's novels became available when the film enthusiast Professor Bernard Williams became chief executor.[6] The trustees of Forster's estate invited producer Ismael Merchant and director James Ivory to Cambridge to discuss filming Forster.[6] Merchant and Ivory surprised their hosts with their interest in A Room with a View, which the fellows of King's College considered "A little inconsequential early novel", rather than A Passage to India, which was generally considered to be the writers best. Merchant and Ivory had no interest in A Passage to India because they had just done a British Raj film: Heat and Dust released in 1983.

Ismael Merchant and James Ivory were a couple from 1961 until Merchant's death in 2005. During their time together they made twenty-five feature films, with Merchant producing and Ivory directing. Nineteen of those films were written by their close friend, the novelist Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. After early, modest successes with films such as The Householder, Shakespeare Wallah and Bombay Talkie, Merchant and Ivory suffered a lean period during the 1970s. Films such as Jane Austen in Manhattan and The Wild Party failed to find an audience. Their fortunes revived dramatically in 1979, however, when they made an adaptation of Henry James's novel The Europeans. Their film Heat and Dust (1983) was an art-house hit in Europe, particularly in England. However, it was not until their work together on A Room with a View that they broke out from the art house into broader success.


The role of Lucy Honeychurch was Helena Bonham Carter's breakthrough as a film actress.[7] She was nineteen at the time and had just finished the art-house film Lady Jane (1986).[8] Ivory gave her the role as he found "she was very quick, very smart, and very beautiful".[7]

Rupert Everett auditioned for the role of Cecil Vyse. He would rather have played George Emerson, but Ivory thought that he was not quite right for it. It was Julian Sands who was cast as the male lead. Sands had come to prominence as the British photographer in the Killing Fields (1984).[7]

Daniel Day-Lewis came to the attention of Ivory though his role in the play Another Country as the gay student Guy Bennet.[9] Given the choice of either George Emerson or Cecyl Vyse, he took on the more challenging role of Cecyl.[10] The role of Freddy Honeychurh, Lucy's brother, went to Rupert Graves, in his film debut. [10] He had had a minor role as one of the schoolboys in the play Another Country. [10] Simon Callow had been Ivory's original choice for the character of Harry Hamilton-Paul, the friend of the Nawab, in the Merchant Ivory film Heat and Dust, but had committed to a play in London's West End.[7] He had created the role of Mozart in the original London stage production of Peter Shaffer play Amadeus (1979) and made his film debut in a small role in the film adaptation.[7] In A Room with a View, he was cast as the vicar Mr. Beebe.[11]

The supporting cast included veteran performers: Maggie Smith had worked five year's previously in another Merchant Ivory film, Quartet.[12] Denholm Elliott was known for his role as Indiana Jones' friend Marcus Brody, the museum curator. With a prominent theater career, Judy Dench had made her film debut in 1964, but she took the supporting role of Eleanor Lavish. She would later become widely known after her starring role in Mrs Brown (1997). Judi Dench and Ivory had disagreements during the film shoot because, among other things, he suggested that she play the character of the writer as a Scot.[13]


The film was made on a budget of $3 million that included investment by Cinecom in the U.S, and from Goldcrest Films, The National Finance Corporation, and Curzon Film Distributors in Great Britain.[14]

A Room with a View was shot extensively on location in Florence, where Merchant Ivory had the Piazza della Signoria cleared for filming.[15] Villa di Maiano in Fiesole served as the Pensione Bertolini.[16] From its decoration of the walls they asked a painter to a series of decorative artworks called grotesques that were used for titles between sections of the film, like chapter headings, following chapter titles in Forster's novel. [17]

Oher scenes were filmed in London and around the town of Sevenoaks in Kent where they borrowed the Kent family estate of film critic John Pym for their country scenes. Lucy's engagement party was filmed in the grounds of Emmetts Garden.[18] Foxwold House near Chiddingstone was used for the Honeychurch house and an artificial pond was built in the forest of the property to use as the Sacred Lake. Two years later, the Great Storm of 1987 would tear through the area and destroy the gardens and almost 80 acres of the surrounding forest.[19] In London, the Linley Sambourne House in South Kensington was used for Cecil's house and the Estonian Legation on Queensway was used for the boarding house where the Miss Alans live.[20] In all, A Room with a View was shot in ten weeks: four in Italy and six in England.[21]


Box office

The film made $4.4 million at the US box office in the first 12 weeks of release.[3]

Goldcrest Films invested £460,000 in the film and earned £1,901,000 meaning they made a profit of £1,441,000.[22]

A Room with a View, was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three, for Jhabvala’s adaptation of Forster’s novel as well as for Best Costume and Best Production Design. A Room With a View was also voted Best Film of the year by the Critic’s Circle Film Section of Great Britain, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the National Board of Review in the United States and in Italy, where the film won the Donatello Prize for Best Foreign Language Picture and Best Director

Critical reception

The film received positive reviews from critics, currently holding a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 30 reviews, with a weighted average of 8.42/10. The site's consensus reads: "The hard edges of E.M Foster novel maybe sanded off, but what we get with A Room with a View is a eminently entertaining comedy with an intellectual approach to love".[23] Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars, writing: "It is an intellectual film, but intellectual about emotions: It encourages us to think about how we feel, instead of simply acting on our feelings."[24]


Academy Awards

BAFTA Awards

Golden Globe Awards

Other awards

Other nominations


  1. "O mio babbino caro" (from Gianni Schicchi by Puccini) – Kiri Te Kanawa with the LPO, conducted by Sir John Pritchard
  2. "The Pensione Bertollini"
  3. "Lucy, Charlotte, and Miss Lavish See the City"
  4. "In the Piazza Signoria"
  5. "The Embankment"
  6. "Phaeton and Persephone"
  7. "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta" (from La Rondine, Act One by Puccini) – Te Kanawa with the LPO, conducted by Pritchard
  8. "The Storm"
  9. "Home, and the Betrothal"
  10. "The Sacred Lake"
  11. "The Allan Sisters"
  12. "In the National Gallery"
  13. "Windy Corner"
  14. "Habanera" (from Carmen by Georges Bizet)
  15. "The Broken Engagement"
  16. "Return to Florence"
  17. "End Titles"

See also


  1. ^ "A Room with a View (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 1 January 1986. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  2. ^ a b A Room with a View at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ a b "Bad Beginning." Sunday Times [London, England] 15 June 1986: 45. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. Web. 8 April 2014.
  4. ^ Ingersollg, Filming Forster, p. 119
  5. ^ Long, James Ivory in Conversation, p. 211
  6. ^ a b Ingersollg, Filming Forster, p. 79
  7. ^ a b c d e Long, James Ivory in Conversation, p. 204
  8. ^ Long, James Ivory in Conversation, p. 203
  9. ^ Ingersollg, Filming Forster, p. 81
  10. ^ a b c Ingersollg, Filming Forster, p. 82
  11. ^ Ingersollg, Filming Forster, p. 83
  12. ^ Long, James Ivory in Conversation, p. 206
  13. ^ Long, James Ivory in Conversation, p. 207
  14. ^ Long, The Films of Merchant Ivory, p. 138
  15. ^ Long, The Films of Merchant Ivory, p. 139
  16. ^ Ingersollg, Filming Forster, p. 91
  17. ^ Ingersollg, Filming Forster, p. 92
  18. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office A Room with a View Film Focus". Archived from the original on 19 July 2013. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  19. ^ John Pym (1995). Merchant Ivory's English Landscape. p. 48–9.
  20. ^ John Pym (1995). Merchant Ivory's English Landscape. p. 50.
  21. ^ Long, James Ivory in Conversation, p. 199
  22. ^ Eberts, Jake; Illott, Terry (1990). My indecision is final. Faber and Faber. p. 657.
  23. ^ "A Room With a View". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  24. ^ "A Room with a View Movie Review (1986)". Rogerebert.com. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  25. ^ "Academy Awards, USA". IMDB. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  26. ^ "The 1987 Oscar Winners – RopeofSilicon.com Award Show Central". Ropeofsilicon.com. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2010. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  27. ^ a b c "A Room with a View (1985) : Awards". IMDB. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  28. ^ "BAFTA Awards". IMDB. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  29. ^ "The 1987 Golden Globe Award Winners – RopeofSilicon.com Award Show Central". Ropeofsilicon.com. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2010. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  30. ^ "London Critics Circle Film Awards". IMDB. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  31. ^ "National Board of Review of Motion Pictures :: Awards". Nbrmp.org. Archived from the original on 13 August 2010. Retrieved 21 August 2010. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  32. ^ "New York Film Critics Circle: 1986 Awards". Nyfcc.com. Archived from the original on 7 September 2010. Retrieved 21 August 2010. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  33. ^ "Writers Guild of America, USA". IMDB. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  34. ^ "Directors Guild of America, USA". IMDB. Retrieved 29 February 2016.