Plot: Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) arrives in Italy with her strait-laced aunt Charlotte (Maggie Smith). Disappointed at not getting the room with a view they had been promised when making their reservations at the inn, they are not sure whether it is proper to accept the offer of Mr. Emerson (Denholm Elliot) and his son George (Julian Sands), staying at the same inn, to switch rooms so they may have a view after all. Reassured by the clergyman, Mr. Beebe (Simon Callow), they agree.
Later, out in the countryside, George impetuously kisses Lucy, and her aunt, horrified, whisks her back to England. There, Lucy is engaged to Cecil, a prissy man, who likes Lucy’s “freshness” and “subtlety,” and kisses her lightly, only after asking her permission. Mr. Beebe says that “If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays (the piano), it will be very exciting–both for us and for her.” He clearly does not think the engagement to Cecil is evidence that she has.
The Emersons move into a cottage near the Honeychurch family, invited by Cecil, who does not realize that Lucy knows them. Lucy is distressed, partly because she wanted two elderly ladies she met in Italy to live there, and partly because having George so near is disturbing to her. She does her best to resist her attraction to him and to the passionate reality that he offers, but ultimately breaks the engagement to Cecil, marries George, and returns with him to the room with a view.
Discussion: Lush natural settings have a powerful affect on fictional characters, especially those in love, or wanting to fall in love. In Shakespeare, lovers go to the woods to straighten things out. In the British literature of the 19th and early 20th century, they often go to Italy, which represents freedom from repression, with “Enchanted April” and this film as prime examples. The wheat field where George kisses Lucy is in sharp contrast to the manicured lawns of the Honeychurch home, as the precise and cerebral Cecil is in contrast to the passionate George.
This is a movie about having the courage to face one’s feelings, and to risk intimacy, fully knowing and being known by another person. George never hesitates to take that risk. Cecil, sensitively played by Daniel Day-Lewis as a full character and not a caricature of a fop, has feelings but will never be able to “take to live as (he) plays.” Clearly, he does care deeply for Lucy, but he does not have the passionate nature to respond to hers fully, as George does. As George says, Cecil “is the sort who can’t know anyone intimately, least of all a woman,” someone who wants Lucy as an ornament, perhaps to enjoy her passionate nature by proxy, not realizing that his own proximity is likely to stifle it. George wants Lucy “to have ideas and thoughts and feelings, even when I hold you in my arms.”
Questions for Kids:
· Mr. Emerson refers to a “Yes! And a Yes! And a Yes” at the “side of the Everlasting Why.” What does this mean?
· What leads Lucy to break her engagement to Cecil? What leads her to accept her feelings for George?
· What is the meaning of the title?
Connections: Some of the themes of this movie are reminiscent of movies like “I Know Where I’m Going,” “Born Yesterday,” “Sabrina,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “It Happened One Night,” and others in which the leading lady ends up marrying someone other than the man she planned to marry, choosing true love and intimacy over comfort and a relationship that seemed safer.
Activities: Teenagers might enjoy the book by E.M. Forster, and some of his other books, including Howard’s End.