Room To Rent

Room To Rent


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

This could be subtitled Adventures In The Visa Trade, if it wasn't trying to be funny. The serious side of British immigration law deserves scrutiny, as was proved by the excellent Last Resort. Writer/director Khaled El Hagar goes for an autobiographical approach, with suitable exaggerations.

Ali (Said Taghmaoui) is a budding Egyptian screenwriter, living in London on a student visa, which has three months left to run. His application for an extension is refused and legally he is not allowed to work. He does so anyway, as a waiter in an Arab restaurant and by giving belly dance lessons.

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His naivety is matched by charm and sweetness. No one, you would think, could take advantage of such a guileless innocent and yet most people do, including his best friend (Karim Belkhadra), who, for a price, promises to arrange "a white marriage", the only remaining option open to him.

He is befriended by a gay photographer (Rupert Graves), falls in love with a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Juliette Lewis) and metamorphoses as the reincarnated lover of a blind faith healer (Anna Massey). There are S&M jokes, gigolo jokes, "bloody foreigner" jokes, through which Ali stumbles, usually in the rain, carrying his portable typewriter and goldfish in a bowl.

Taghmaoui began his cinematic career at the top, starring in La Haine. This is a soft option, by comparison. The appearance of Graves, hinting at decadence, reinforces the notion that he wasted too much time playing toffee-nosed twits in Waughesque nostalgia flicks, when his range as an actor stretches far beyond billiard room banter.

Lewis, who startled an incredulous nation in Natural Born Killers and Kalifornia, is so bad you wonder what she's doing in such an unfulfilling role and Massey, the doyenne of sitting-up-straight, takes embarrassment to a higher plain, as she enunciates her passion for young Ali with the manicured vowels of a talking book.

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2001
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Egyptian student scriptwriter in London endeavours to stay beyond send-home-date.
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Director: Khaled El Hagar

Writer: Khaled El Hagar, Amanda Mackenzie Stuart

Starring: Said Taghmaoui, Juliette Lewis, Rupert Graves, Anna Massey, Karim Belkhadra

Year: 2001

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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