What happens when two pretty girls stay at a hotel in Italy’s ’Eternal City’? That’s the simple but intriguing premise of Sex & Lucía director Julio Medem’s Spanish arthouse film Room In Rome. Sometimes it doesn’t take more than such a basic idea – an intimate play of two – for a provoking work, in more than one sense. For starters, the movie contains dialog in whopping six different languages. But that’s not really the reason why Room In Rome attracted quite a bit of attention upon its release.
At the beginning, we meet the lively short-haired Spanish girl Alba (Elena Anaya) and the tall and slender Russian beauty Natasha (Natasha Yarovenko) on the streets of Rome. They have just met after a night out in town, and Alba manages to convince her new acquaintance to join her in her hotel room for a final drink. What’s initially supposed to be a physical adventure between two attractive women becomes a soul-searching trip for both of them.
Room In Rome is far away from your typical summer blockbuster. It’s exactly how arthouse is supposed to be – beautifully photographed, philosophical yet somewhat, up-close and personal, and very ballsy despite the fact that men don’t play any role at all. The initial one-night stand between two girls who barely know each other and who haven’t even been honest about who they are turns into something entirely different as the film progresses.
Step by step, they reveal themselves to their temporary significant other (and thus to the viewers). In the process, they don’t only bare their bodies but also their souls. Both know that they live on borrowed time and that their encounter will soon be over. At first, Natasha is scared because it’s her first lesbian experience and soon flees from the hotel room to forget about the whole thing. When she is forced to return because she has left her phone at Alba’s place, she realizes that the last few hours have been more than a one-off.
Basque filmmaker Medem is known for his ambitious, idiosyncratic, and sometimes controversial features, such as Cows, The Red Squirrel and Lovers Of The Arctic Circle. Although eccentric American master Stanley Kubrick is said to have love his work, his movies either grab you or they don’t. This one makes no exception. Room In Rome has divided audiences and will probably continue to do so. What exactly is it, a soft core porn with a plot or art with (arguably a lot of) nudity?
The answer is, quite emphatically, yes. Arguments can be made for each point of view, yet unlike most other erotic films, Medem’s movie does not only contain awesome cinematography but also a clever script with profound dialog and two stunning leading ladies. Anaya is pretty popular in Spain, having worked with such greats as Medem and Pedro Almodóvar in the past and appeared alongside Julianne Moore, Hugh Jackman, and Kate Beckinsale in Hollywood projects like Savage Grace and Van Helsing.
The real revelation, however, is unknown Ukrainian actress Yarovenko. She is both drop dead gorgeous and supremely talented. Her character appears sensual and vulnerable at the same time as Natasha struggles through her first intimate encounter with a woman. One can only hope that Room In Room will be Yarovenko’s launching pad for an international career. The movie deserves to be seen for her performance alone.