Room in Rome is a sexy, messy attempt at an erotic drama that will surely garner divisive opinions. Written, produced and directed by Julio Medem (Sex and Lucia), this new film veers wildly from dramatic and serious, to over the top, to blisteringly hot, with detours into extreme pretension and magical realism.
The story concerns two young women – Alba (Elena Anaya) and Natasha (Natasha Yarovenko), and their last-night adventures in the eternal city. Alba is a lesbian, clad in hipster plaid and sneakers, while the striking, statuesque Natasha is assuredly straight.
Nonetheless, Natasha lets Alba take her up to her gorgeously appointed hotel room. After a little initial resistance, and some weirdness with a cell phone, the two end up in bed together, where they proceed to spend the better part of the night.
Scandalously realistic sex scenes are mixed in with a series of often bizarre conversations, as the women tell stories about their lives and slowly reveal their actual selves. Initially, they lie, with ridiculous tales garnered from relatives and friends, but eventually, as things get more honest in bed, they begin to pull back the layers of deceit and slowly reveal the truth. Or do they?
Regardless of whether they’re telling each other the truth or not, it’s obvious both women are emotionally vulnerable – perhaps even damaged. Both speak of abuse and tragedy in their lives. Clearly, sex and love and happiness haven’t been congruous for either of them.
Subtext about sex between women being the only true form of communication and the honesty between women are a welcome, subtle message in a movie that basks in obvious statements and loud proclamations.
The problem is definitely one of tone. The plot would have worked incredibly well as a thriller. If the audience felt the stakes were appropriately high, we would care much more about our two mystery lovers. The sex scenes, which are beautifully shot, are overshadowed by the overzealous soundtrack, which all but drowns out their erotic power.