Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
United Kingdom, 1985. Goldcrest Films International, National Film Finance Corporation, Curzon Film Distributors, Film Four International, Merchant Ivory Productions. Screenplay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, based on the novel by E.M. Forster. Cinematography by Tony Pierce-Roberts. Produced by Ismail Merchant. Music by Richard Robbins. Production Design by Brian Ackland-Snow, Gianni Quaranta. Costume Design by Jenny Beavan, John Bright. Film Editing by Humphrey Dixon. Podcast: My Criterions. Academy Awards 1986. Golden Globe Awards 1986. Independent Spirit Awards 1986. National Board of Review Awards 1986. New York Film Critics Awards 1986.
Merchant Ivory earned their first major international attention with this inspiring adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel, the first of three of the author’s works that the group would make and the team’s first Oscar nomination for Best Picture. While on vacation in Italy, young Lucy (Helena Bonham Carter) and her spinster cousin Charlotte (a terrific Maggie Smith) make friends with an uncouth older gentleman (Denholm Elliott) and his wildly unorthodox son (Julian Sands) after the two groups switch rooms at their Venetian pensione. When the two men coincidentally take up residence near Lucy’s home in England, her budding attraction to Sands threatens to disrupt her politely acceptable engagement to starch-collared Cecil (Daniel Day-Lewis). Merchant Ivory’s reputation for ravishing production design and costumes are an asset as always, but beneath all the white linen is Forster’s not-so-subtle criticism of lofty British morality and its direct opposition to human nature (and happiness). Performances are all memorable, particularly a dewy Carter making a strong appearance in her film debut.