Director Julio Medem is hardly the first to create a film focusing on the chance encounter of two strangers far from home. Indeed, Room in Rome is based on Matías Bize’s En le cama, which owes much to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. However, by turning the story on its head and focusing on the relationship of two women, Medem has created a fresh and poignant character study.
When Alba (Elena Anaya) seduces Natasha (Natasha Yarovenko) at a bar in Rome, the two spend their last night in the city together in a hotel room. Despite their sexual intent, the two share personal stories that create an emotional connection neither thought possible.
The film carries an R rating in Australia, and it’s understandable, considering the leads are naked for most of the running time and sex is a constant feature. It is not included simply to titillate; while the pair shed their clothing very quickly, they are much more hesitant to allow glimpses of their emotional selves.
Room in Rome points to the modern day woman having no inhibitions in sleeping with the same sex – even for a first-timer – but guarding their true selves. Both wish – initially – to keep their encounter to a single night and Natasha states, “This stays between these four walls.”
It is here that the film begins discussing the room as a character and its relevance to the two women. The paintings frequently mirror their conversations and constantly are a visual metaphor for their shielded selves. Despite restricting the action to a single room, Medem intelligently uses a laptop and camera to open up the piece both spatially and temporally.
While Room in Rome suffers from poor pacing and Jocelyn Pook’s musical motif irritates by the halfway point, there is an intelligent character study and graceful conclusion to be found.
Room in Rome screened at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival 2011