“Never before, in my whole life, I’ve known a love like this. Not this way. And it can’t be for nothing.”
A hotel room in Rome is the setting for a chance encounter between two beautiful, young women who find themselves inescapably attracted to one another.
It’s hard to complain about the bed-death of lesbian cinema when films like Julio Medem’s Room in Rome surface. Starring Elena Anaya (who would star the following year in the highly provocative The Skin I Live In opposite Antonio Banderas) as “Alba” and Natasha Yarovenko (possibly best known for her television role as “Romina” on Lalola) as “Natasha”, the film posits what would happen between two women, tucked away from the prying eyes of the world, if they were to share a room in Rome for one night.
After a chance encounter at a club, Alba convinces Natasha to come up to her hotel room. Reluctant, but strangely, inextricably attracted to Alba, Natasha accepts. She’s never done this before and she’s not shy about letting Alba know, every chance she gets. Alba smiles, sweetly. They both know there’s something there, between them. It’s impossible to ignore.
What transpires once the door is closed behind them begins as a harmless sexual encounter. The women start their night together by sharing stories, richly layered in fiction and subterfuge, until finally, at last, they begin to trust one another with their darkest secrets.
Part of the seduction of Room in Rome is that you can never tell if what the characters are sharing with one another is real or fantasy – which is really the heart of the film. Is it, any of it, real or is it all fantasy?
Room in Rome is a film often enough described as the lesbian Last Tango in Paris, but it thumbs its nose at it, defying the relative ease of being classified as just an erotically-charged film trying to cash in on a lesbian-centric theme. The plot becomes driven less by the sexual attraction and curiosity passing between the women and more by their emotional interplay as the two begin to open up with one another.
With so much explicit sex, will the experience of Room in Rome simply leave its audience in a visceral state?
Not necessarily. While I would argue that a large part of the film rests in its play on tactile, explicit sexuality, I think director Julio Medem also wants to feed your mind.
The first moments during which the women stand before each other, undressed and vulnerable, they are unable to hide anything – physically – from one another, and yet this is when their walls are up and the most is being concealed. As the story progresses, while the women remain unclothed, they become more comfortable with one another and their guards begin to fall. They begin to see each other, and their experience, for what they and it truly are.
This can only be achieved by allowing the characters to shed everything that stands between them.
The chemistry between actresses Anaya and Yarovenko is as electric and engaging as the trailer promises.
As a lesbian-themed film, it is a perfectly disruptive to the construction of Alba and Natasha’s relationship to introduce and integrate a male presence in the form of Max, an opera singing hotel employee. It adds conflict and tension; with the argument being that anything that happens outside the room that attempts to intrude upon Alba and Natasha adds an inescapable and delicious fatalism to the plot.
Eventually, the women will have to leave and face what awaits them beyond the walls of the room they share in Rome. The true question then becomes, will they face it together?
My one big nit pick about Room in Rome is one I so often call into focus and that is with the film’s score. With the exception of the actresses singing “Volare” in the shower together, which is perfect given the moment in the film and song’s subject matter, the rest of the score is too present. I want it to fade away and let the women take center stage.
Room in Rome is not to be missed, especially for fans of Elena Anaya.
Trailer (NSFW contains nudity and depictions of sexuality)
Explore more at the official website: Room in Rome (Spanish)
Is Room in Rome rotten or fresh?
IFC: Official page for Room in Rome