Saturday, April 14, 2007
Roman is kinth and kin to cult hit May. I would even liken the two films as brother and sister. In May, director Lucky McKee directed Angela Bettis in the lead role, while in Roman Bettis directs McKee. Roman deals with the same core issues as May does – loneliness, isolation, abandonment and the yearning for love.
Roman (Lucky McKee) is a lonely man who keeps to himself much of the time. He doesn’t have a television or even a radio, but spends his spare time staring out his apartment window. Every day after work, he sits down with a beer and waits for his beautiful neighbor (Kristen Bell) to come home. At precisely 5:31pm every day she arrives home from work and Roman leaves his apartment so he can get his mail alongside her. He is obsessed with this girl, but he never gets up enough nerve to speak to her. One day, while sitting on the roof of his apartment complex and enjoying a few beers, the girl approaches him. They strike up an acquaintance and finally Roman invites her to her place. Roman is eager to pursue his vision of an idyllic relationship with her, but his obsession goes a little too far when he accidentally kills her when she tries to leave his apartment. Instead of notifying the police about the murder, Roman keeps the girl’s decomposing body in his bathtub that he fills with ice. Nobody suspects him as he goes through the grieving process he disposes of her body piece by piece.
Meanwhile, a new woman named Eva (Nectar Rose) enters his life. She is a new tenant in the apartment complex and she actively pursues Roman. Her exuberance and bubbly personality hide the fact that she is obsessed with death. As Roman cautiously pursues his relationship with Eva he begins to fall in love all over again. Still, the murder of the girl haunts Roman and he continues to punish himself while continuing to get rid of the body, bit by bit. Will Eva discover Roman’s terrible secret or will Eva’s own secrets destroy Roman?
Roman is an eerily affecting film, one which I was still thinking about days after I had watched it. Though I didn’t like the beginning too much and felt it was a bit slow, as the story continued I felt myself sucked in and really caring about the characters, especially Roman. Roman is a murderer and crazy to boot, but he is entirely likeable! Lucky McKee does a wonderful job of playing him and I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role. Nectar Rose plays Eva as a real live wire filled with energy but one who also has a very dark side. While Eva is outspoken about her love of death and embraces it, Roman is scared of death and afraid of losing those he loves. Each character’s differing personality plays perfectly against the others. Like Roman, I found myself really liking Eva and caring for her a lot. Kristin Bell as the neighbor Roman is obsessed with (she’s credited only as “The Girl”) does a spectacular job with her short time on screen. She comes off just like any crush anyone has ever had – so nearby yet so unattainable.
One of the first things I noticed about this film was how low-budget it looked. May might have had high production values and a slick look, but Roman is just the opposite. It is grainy and looks like a home movie some of the time. Yet, this should not be a deterrent to watching the film. I believe Bettis shot the film like this on purpose, to mirror Roman’s simple and minimalist sensibilities. Whatever the intention or budgetary constraints, the look of Roman works with the story.
As mentioned before, the story does start off slow and continues at a very languid pace throughout, but after about 20 minutes it starts to suck you in and I, for one, couldn’t look away. It has so much depth and heart that you really care what happens and how it all turns out. Like May, it has one doozy of an ending that will stick with you for days.
Roman is not for everyone, but those that enjoy McKee and Bettis collaborations won’t want to miss this one.