A Room with a View (1985 film)

A Room with a View is a 1985 British romance film directed by James Ivory and produced by Ismail Merchant. It is written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who adapted E. M. Forster's 1908 novel A Room with a View. Set in England and Italy, it is about a young woman named Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) in the final throes of the restrictive and repressed culture of Edwardian England and her developing love for a free-spirited young man, George Emerson (Julian Sands). Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott, Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench and Simon Callow feature in supporting roles. The film closely follows the novel by the use of chapter titles to distinguish thematic segments.

A Room with a View
A man and a woman, the cityscape of Florence and Il Duomo in the background
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames Ivory
Screenplay byRuth Prawer Jhabvala
Based onA Room with a View
by E. M. Forster
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 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.



In 1907 a young Englishwoman, Lucy Honeychurch, and her cousin and chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett, stay at the Pensione Bertolini while on holiday in Florence. They are disappointed that their rooms lack a view of the River Arno as promised. At dinner they meet other English guests: the Reverend Mr. Beebe; two elderly spinster sisters, the Misses Alan; romance author Eleanor Lavish; the freethinking Mr. Emerson; and his quiet, handsome son George.

Learning about Charlotte and Lucy's disappointment at not having a view of the river, Mr. Emerson and George offer to exchange rooms, though Charlotte considers the suggestion indelicate. Mr. Beebe mediates and the switch is made. While touring the Piazza della Signoria the next day, Lucy witnesses a local man being brutally stabbed and killed. She faints but George Emerson appears and comes to her aid. When Lucy has recovered, the two have a brief but unchaperoned discussion before returning to the pensione.

Later Charlotte, Lucy and the Emersons join other British tourists for a day trip to the Fiesole countryside. The carriage driver canoodles with his girlfriend, sitting beside him, which upsets Reverend Eager, who insists the girlfriend get off the carriage in the middle of the countryside. Wishing to engage in gossip unsuitable for Lucy, Charlotte and Miss Lavish encourage her to go for a walk; Lucy goes looking for Mr. Beebe. The Italian driver, possibly misunderstanding Lucy's awkward Italian or possibly mischievously playing Cupid, instead leads her to where George Emerson is admiring the view from a hillside. Seeing Lucy across a poppy field, he suddenly embraces and passionately kisses her. Charlotte appears and intervenes. Worried that Lucy's mother will consider her an inadequate chaperone, Charlotte swears Lucy to secrecy and cuts their trip short.

Upon returning to Surrey in England, Lucy says nothing to her mother about the incident and pretends to forget it. She is soon engaged to Cecil Vyse, a wealthy and socially prominent man who is cold, snobbish, and pretentious. Cecil loves Lucy, but he and his mother consider the Honeychurch family their social inferiors, which offends Mrs. Honeychurch. Lucy soon learns that Mr. Emerson is moving into Sir Harry Otway's rental cottage, with George visiting at weekends. Lucy intended the two Misses Alan to live there and is cross with Cecil on learning that through a chance meeting with the Emersons in London, Cecil recommended the cottage to them. He proclaims his motive was to annoy Sir Harry, whom Cecil considers a snob; he assumes Harry will find the Emersons “too common".

George's presence upends Lucy's life, and her suppressed feelings for him surface. Cecil, her fiancé, asks her permission to kiss her, then does so awkwardly. Lucy’s non sequitur comment that the people she met in Italy were “extraordinary” invites a comparison to the impromptu passionate kiss she received from George. Meanwhile, Lucy's brother, Freddy, becomes friends with George. Freddy invites George to play tennis at Windy Corner, the Honeychurch home, during which Cecil reads Miss Lavish's latest novel set in Italy. As Cecil mockingly reads aloud to Lucy and George, they recognize a scene as being identical to their encounter in the poppy field in Fiesole. Cecil, still reading, is oblivious when George passionately kisses Lucy in the garden. She confronts Charlotte, who admits to telling Miss Lavish about the kiss in the poppy field, which was then used in her story. Lucy orders George to leave Windy Corner and never return. He says that Cecil sees her only as a possession and will never love her for herself, as he would. Lucy seems unmoved, but soon after ends her engagement to Cecil, saying they are incompatible.

To escape the ensuing fallout, Lucy arranges to travel to Greece with the Misses Alan. George, unable to be around Lucy, arranges for his father to move to London, unaware that Lucy is no longer engaged. When Lucy calls at Mr. Beebe's home to fetch Charlotte, she is confronted by Mr. Emerson, who happens to be there. She finally realizes and admits her true feelings for George.

At the end, newlyweds George and Lucy honeymoon at the Italian pensione where they met, in the room with a view, overlooking Florence's Duomo.





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".[4]

In 1946, 20th Century Fox offered $25,000 for the film rights to A Room with a View, but Forster did not hold cinema in high regard and refused although the studio was willing to pay him even more.[5] Following Forster's death in 1970, the board of fellows of King's College, Cambridge, inherited the rights to his books.[6] 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.[7] The trustees of Forster's estate invited producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory to Cambridge to discuss filming Forster.[7]



The role of Lucy Honeychurch was Helena Bonham Carter's breakthrough as a film actress.[8] She was nineteen at the time and had just finished the art-house film Lady Jane (1986).[9] Ivory gave her the role as he found "she was very quick, very smart, and very beautiful".[8] She fitted Forster's description of Lucy as "a young lady with a quantity of dark hair and a very pretty, pale, undeveloped face" .

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 gained notice as the British photographer in The Killing Fields (1984).[8]

Daniel Day-Lewis came to the attention of Ivory through his role in the play Another Country as the gay student Guy Bennet.[10] Given the choice of either George Emerson or Cecil Vyse, he took on the more challenging role of Cecil.[11] The role of Freddy Honeychurch, Lucy's brother, went to Rupert Graves, in his film debut.[11] He had had a minor role as one of the schoolboys in the play Another Country.[11]

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.[8] He had created the role of Mozart in the original London stage production of Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus (1979) and made his film debut in a small role in the film adaptation.[8] In A Room with a View, he was cast as the vicar Mr. Beebe.[12]

The supporting cast included veteran performers: Five years earlier, Maggie Smith had worked in another Merchant Ivory film, Quartet.[13] With a prominent theatre career, Judi Dench had made her film debut in 1964, but she took the supporting role of Eleanor Lavish. Dench and Ivory had disagreements during the filming of A Room with a View because, among other things, he suggested that she play her character as a Scot.[14]



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 Film Finance Corporation, and Curzon Film Distributors in Great Britain.[15] A Room with a View was shot extensively on location in Florence, where Merchant Ivory had the Piazza della Signoria cleared for filming.[16] Pensione Quisisana served as the Pensione Bertolini, also Vila Maiano in some interiors.[17] From its decoration of the walls they asked a painter to do 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.[18]

Other 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.[19] 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.[20] 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.[21] In all, A Room with a View was shot in ten weeks: four in Italy and six in England.[22] The film includes a notable scene of full frontal male nudity in which George, Freddy, and Mr. Beebe go skinnydipping in a pond.[23][24][25]



Critical reception


The film received positive reviews from critics, holding a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 35 reviews, with a weighted average of 8.40/10. The site's consensus reads: "The hard edges of E.M Forster’s novel may be sanded off, but what we get with A Room with a View is an eminently entertaining comedy with an intellectual approach to love".[26] According to Metacritic, which sampled the opinions of 21 critics and calculated a score of 83 out of 100, the film received "universal acclaim".[27] 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."[28] A Room With a View appeared on 61 critics' ten-best lists in 1986, making it one of the most acclaimed films of the year.[29]

Box office


The film made $4.4 million at the US box office in the first 12 weeks of release.[3] After six months on release, it returned a distributor’s gross of £2,026,304 in Britain. It made US $14 million from North America.[30] Goldcrest Films invested £460,000 in the film and earned £1,901,000 meaning they made a profit of £1,441,000.[31]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Picture[a] Ismail Merchant Nominated [32]
Best Director James Ivory Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Maggie Smith Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Denholm Elliott Nominated
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Won
Best Art Direction Art Direction: Gianni Quaranta and Brian Ackland-Snow;
Set Decoration: Brian Savegar and Elio Altramura
Best Cinematography Tony Pierce-Roberts Nominated
Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan and John Bright Won
American Society of Cinematographers Awards Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Theatrical Releases Tony Pierce-Roberts Nominated [35]
British Academy Film Awards Best Film Ismail Merchant and James Ivory Won [36]
Best Direction James Ivory Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Maggie Smith Won
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Simon Callow Nominated
Denholm Elliott Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Judi Dench Won
Rosemary Leach Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Nominated
Best Cinematography Tony Pierce-Roberts Nominated
Best Costume Design Jenny Beavan and John Bright Nominated
Best Editing Humphrey Dixon Nominated
Best Original Score Richard Robbins Nominated
Best Production Design Gianni Quaranta and Brian Ackland-Snow Won
Best Sound Tony Lenny, Ray Beckett, and Richard King Nominated
British Society of Cinematographers Awards Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature Film Tony Pierce-Roberts Nominated [37]
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Film James Ivory Won [38]
Best Foreign Director Won
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Nominated [39]
Evening Standard British Film Awards Best Film Won
Best Technical or Artistic Achievement Tony Pierce-Roberts Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated [40]
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Maggie Smith Won
Best Director – Motion Picture James Ivory Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards Best Foreign Film (Special Distinction Award) Won [41]
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actor Denholm Elliott Won [42]
Best Supporting Actress Maggie Smith Won
London Film Critics' Circle Awards Film of the Year Won
National Board of Review Awards Best Film Won [43]
Top Ten Films Won
Best Supporting Actor Daniel Day-Lewis (also for My Beautiful Laundrette) Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Supporting Actor 2nd Place [44]
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actor Won [45]
Best Screenplay Ruth Prawer Jhabvala 3rd Place
Best Cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts Won
Sant Jordi Awards Best Foreign Film James Ivory Won
Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion Nominated [46]
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Ruth Prawer Jhabvala Won [47]


  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"
  • Original music composed by Richard Robbins
  • Soundtrack album produced by Simon Heyworth
  • Arrangements by Frances Shaw and Barrie Guard
  • Music published by Filmtrax PLC

See also



  1. ^ The film was the first unrated film in the United States to receive a Best Picture nomination.


  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. ^ "A Room With a View". merchantivory.com. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  5. ^ Ingersollg, Filming Forster, p. 119
  6. ^ Long, James Ivory in Conversation, p. 211
  7. ^ a b Ingersollg, Filming Forster, p. 79
  8. ^ a b c d e Long, James Ivory in Conversation, p. 204
  9. ^ Long, James Ivory in Conversation, p. 203
  10. ^ Ingersollg, Filming Forster, p. 81
  11. ^ a b c Ingersollg, Filming Forster, p. 82
  12. ^ Ingersollg, Filming Forster, p. 83
  13. ^ Long, James Ivory in Conversation, p. 206
  14. ^ Long, James Ivory in Conversation, p. 207
  15. ^ Long, The Films of Merchant Ivory, p. 138
  16. ^ Long, The Films of Merchant Ivory, p. 139
  17. ^ Ingersollg, Filming Forster, p. 91
  18. ^ Ingersollg, Filming Forster, p. 92
  19. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office A Room with a View Film Focus". Archived from the original on 19 July 2013.
  20. ^ John Pym (1995). Merchant Ivory's English Landscape. pp. 48–9.
  21. ^ John Pym (1995). Merchant Ivory's English Landscape. p. 50.
  22. ^ Long, James Ivory in Conversation, p. 199
  23. ^ "Why you should revisit the beautifully romantic 'A Room with a View'". The Seattle Times. 7 September 2020.
  24. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (6 October 2017). "James Ivory on 'Call Me by Your Name' and Why American Male Actors Won't Do Nude Scenes". Variety.com.
  25. ^ "A Room with a View (1985)". Film Comment. 17 February 2016.
  26. ^ "A Room With a View (1985)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 4 January 2024.
  27. ^ "A Room with a View Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  28. ^ "A Room with a View Movie Review (1986)". Rogerebert.com. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  29. ^ McGilligan, Pat; Rowland, Mark (18 January 1987). "The Best and the Bummers". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 18 August 2020. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  30. ^ Chapman, J. (2022). The Money Behind the Screen: A History of British Film Finance, 1945-1985. Edinburgh University Press p 343
  31. ^ Eberts, Jake; Illott, Terry (1990). My indecision is final. Faber and Faber. p. 657.
  32. ^ "The 34th Academy Awards (1962) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  33. ^ McCarthy, Todd (18 February 1987). "'Platoon', 'Room' Top Oscar List; Stone Thrice Blessed, Orion Hot". Variety. p. 4.
  34. ^ "The 1987 Oscar Winners – RopeofSilicon.com Award Show Central". Ropeofsilicon.com. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2010.
  35. ^ "The ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography". American Society of Cinematographers. Archived from the original on 2 August 2011.
  36. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1987". British Academy Film Awards. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  37. ^ "Best Cinematography in a Theatrical Feature Film" (PDF). British Society of Cinematographers. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  38. ^ "A Room with a View". David di Donatello. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  39. ^ "39th DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  40. ^ "A Room with a View". Golden Globe Awards. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  41. ^ "38 Years of Nominees and Winners" (PDF). Independent Spirit Awards. Retrieved 17 October 2023.
  42. ^ "KCFCC Award Winners – 1980-89". Kansas City Film Critics Circle. 14 December 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  43. ^ "1986 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  44. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. 19 December 2009. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  45. ^ "Awards – New York Film Critics Circle". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  46. ^ "VENICE FILM FESTIVAL – 1986". Retrieved 6 October 2013.
  47. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America Awards. Archived from the original on 5 December 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2010.


  • Ingersoll, Earl G. Filming Forster: The Challenges of Adapting E.M. Forster's Novels for the Screen. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. 2012, ISBN 978-1-61147-682-8
  • Long, Robert Emmet. The Films of Merchant Ivory. Citadel Press. 1993, ISBN 0-8065-1470-1
  • Long, Robert Emmet. James Ivory in Conversation. University of California Press, 2005, ISBN 0-520-23415-4.