Room to Rent
Odd couple. Mark and Ali (Graves and Taghmaoui) aren't sure what to make of each other...
dir-scr Khaled El Hagar
with Said Taghmaoui, Juliette Lewis, Rupert Graves, Karim Belkhadra, Anna Massey, Clementine Celarie
release UK 22.Jun.01
2 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
This intriguing little comedy-drama set among immigrants in London has an enjoyable story at its centre, even if it never quite comes together. It's the vaguely autobiographical story of the filmmaker. Ali (Taghmaoui) is a young wannabe writer from Egypt who has trouble finding a place to live in London because his landlords get fed up with him using their lives as material for his sordid screenplays. He's also having visa problems, which his best friend (Belkhadra) suggests can be solved with a "white marriage" (for permanent residency). But he needs a lot of money for that, so he does verything he can think of--from teaching belly dancing and working as an escort for his star pupil (Celarie) to posing for a photographer-artist (Graves). Then he falls in love with a Marilyn Monroe look-alike (Lewis) and finds himself pursued by a blind faith healer (Massey).

Yes, it's all more than a little silly, and the storyline snakes all over the place from broad comedy to awkward romance to serious drama. This mix isn't completely successful, but the film does manage to generate some interest in Ali's life, mostly due to a charming performance from the always excellent Taghmaoui (Uneasy Riders). Graves is also good in the film's only layered role--as a sexy and successful but ultimately lonely gay man estranged form his family. Lewis never lets her guard down for a second, remaining oddly cartoonish even when her character should be abandoning her playacting. And hints of magical realism aside, the whole thing is more than a little contrived. But it's very nicely directed by El Hagar, with warm cinematography that captures London in a new light. Worth a look if you don't expect too much.
adult themes and situations, language cert 15 10.May.01

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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall