ITV1: A Room With A View - Sunday 4 November

A Room With A View
Sunday 4 November 2007 9:00pm – 11:00pm on ITV1.

Timothy (Death Defying Acts, Mysterious Creatures) and Rafe (Hot Fuzz, The Chatterley Affair) play Mr Emerson and his son George in an adaptation by Andrew Davies’ (Bleak House, The Line of Beauty) of Forster’s classic social comedy for IWC Media, part of the RDF Media Group.

Elaine Cassidy (Ghost Squad, Fingersmith) is Lucy Honeychurch, Laurence Fox (Lewis, Becoming Jane) is Cecil Vyse, Sophie Thompson (EastEnders, A Harlot’s Progress) is Charlotte Bartlett, Sinead Cusack (The Tiger’s Tail, Home Again) is Miss Lavish, Timothy West (Bleak House, London) is Mr Eager and Mark Williams (Stardust, Harry Potter) is the Reverend Beebe.

Andrew Davies was inspired to create a new layer of narrative in his adaptation of A Room With A View after discovering EM Forster’s rethinking of his story.

“Forster himself wrote a little postscript in 1958, 50 years after writing the book, imagining what might have happened to the characters. He imagined George Emerson visiting Florence after the Second World War, looking for the Bertolini boarding house. That got me thinking and, since it’s so much Lucy’s story, I imagined Lucy revisiting Florence after the First World War, to recapture her happiest memories. So the whole thing becomes Lucy’s memory of that crucial point in her life and it also gives us the opportunity to add a new ending, after the ending in the book.”

Another inspiration that came to Andrew during the writing process was the casting of the Emersons.

He explains: “I’m so pleased with myself for thinking of Tim and Rafe Spall as Mr Emerson and his son George. The idea came to me when I was about halfway through the script when I suddenly realised I was imagining them in the parts as I was writing, and this is something that rarely happens to me. I’d worked with Rafe before – he was brilliant in the Chatterley Affair – and, of course, I had long admired Tim’s work and hoped I’d have him in something of mine one day.

We were very lucky to find them both available at the same time. It was a joy to see them together. They’d never worked together before, but they are a very close dad and son, and that comes through so powerfully in the performances.”

This is a fresh look at this classic romantic comedy by E.M. Forster about the awakening of an impressionable English girl on a trip to Florence. This new interpretation of the story is poignantly framed by Lucy’s nostalgic return to Italy after the First World War.

1922, Florence. Lucy Honeychurch (Elaine Cassidy) has returned to relive her first visit there years before. She finds the pensione where she once stayed and we flash back to:

Florence 1912. Lucy, heavily chaperoned by her anxious cousin Charlotte Bartlett (Sophie Thompson), arrives at the Pensione Bertolini looking for adventure. Instead she finds herself in an eccentric enclave of English tourists including elderly spinsters, clergymen, and more dangerously, the socialist Mr Emerson (Tim Spall) and his loose-cannon of a son, George (Rafe Spall). When Lucy explores the streets alone, she witnesses a fight in which a man dies. When she faints, it’s George Emerson who rescues her and sparks fly.

On a picnic excursion to the countryside, the young coachman Paolo (Yari Gugliucci) attracts attention – he’s brought his girlfriend along, pretending she’s his sister. She is summarily despatched by the supercilious Reverend Eager (Timothy West). When Lucy finds herself separated from the rest of the party, she asks Paolo where the clergymen are, but in her poor Italian, she actually asks him how to find the “good men”. Paolo directs her towards George Emerson, who kisses her passionately in the middle of a poppy field. Lucy is profoundly shocked, but also very excited.

Her chaperone Charlotte whisks her away to Rome, where they stay with the elegant Cecil Vyse (Laurence Fox) at his holiday villa. Cecil proposes to Lucy and she accepts. Back in the UK, at her family home in Surrey, George turns up and it isn’t long before he kisses her again and declares his love, urging her not to marry Cecil.

Lucy’s quandary escalates until she breaks off with both men, but before she can embrace her cousin Charlotte’s fate as a spinster, Mr Emerson kindly explains her muddled feelings to her…obviously, she loves his son. George and Lucy come together at last – and enjoy an ecstatic honeymoon in Florence – in their old room with a view…

A Room With A View is produced by Eileen Quinn and Dave Edwards (Fallen Angel) and directed by Nicholas Renton (Wives and Daughters, Uncle Adolf)

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  • SheWolf

    I must remember to give this a try!

  • Anonymous

    Although I tried my best to enjoy it, I thought real liberties had been taken with this. Some worked – like seeing Lucy in Rome with Cecil (you get a much better picture of how he arrives on the scene) the obvious sign-posting that this was a story about class, and I suppose in retrospect the setting of the story as a flashback didn’t do any harm, but some of the characterisation seemed to jar.

    Lucy was far too sassy. Given how forthright she had been hitherto, and lippy to her elders and betters, it simply did not ring true when Cecil, allegedly astounded that she wanted to break off the engagement, stated she was “speaking with a new voice” that he’d not heard before. In any event, Cecil did not seem so awful (except when Lucy having just said how educated Cecil was he said, “If I was” – yikes!) and likely to stifle Lucy as suggested in the book – just more obvious allusions that he might have been gay, I guess, and in denial.

    Mrs Honeychurch seemed far too together to suddenly throw a hissy fit at the prospect of Lucy going off with the Miss Alans (and who were they? The viewer was left to deduce they might have been the dour old birds we saw for about 30 seconds at the pensione, but who knew?)

    Old Mr Emerson seemed far too nice and jolly and not really marching to the beat of a different drum, and George seemed a much more happy-go-lucky, loveable cockney character than painted by EM Forster. I certainly didn’t get the impression he was searching for the meaning of life.

    I’m all for updating stories but you have to match the characters to the dialogue and there were real gaps with this. To me this wonderful, engaging, subtle story had been reduced to some formulaic romance with all the usual bells, whistles and signposts. Shame.

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