From Old Street to Notting Hill to Chiswick, Bedrooms & Hallways chooses its locations carefully. London locations are used to describe the characters. Interior design is integral to the plot – the central characters are defined by where and how they live. Old Street is bohemian, Notting Hill is family-oriented and a New Age revolution has taken place in Chiswick.
The film tells the story of Leo (Kevin McKidd), a single gay man, who joins a men’s support group when his boss convinces him of the benefits of male bonding. During one session, Leo admits to the group that he is attracted to Brendan (James Purefoy), a heterosexual man who has just split up with his long-term girlfriend.
Leo and Brendan embark upon a passionate affair which sparks a new line of discussion at the men’s group. Terry (Con O’Neil), a macho heterosexual, admits to buying and enjoying a gay porn magazine and now wants to “push himself to the limits of self-discovery”. The plot thickens when Brendan’s ex-girlfriend Sally (Jennifer Ehle) turns out to be Leo’s ex-girlfriend from his teenage years. Couples pair off, but you never know who will end up with who.
Screenwriter Robert Farrar says the idea was to challenge conventional gender preconceptions. “I wanted to forget all the divisive issues, because that’s not what being human is about,” he says. The detailed attention that has been paid to interiors and costume reinforces the individuality of the characters. There is a funny moment when the camera moves to observe Leo’s flatmate Darren’s (Tom Hollander) feet as he runs down the road wearing a pair of bright orange Spice Girl style Buffalo shoes.
Production designer Richard Bridgland says that he and director Rose Trocher wanted the film to have a distinctive look. “We combined flights of fancy with living spaces that fitted in completely with the characters’ idiosyncrasies,” he says.
Keith’s (Simon Callow) house, where the men’s group is held, indulges his New Age eccentricities. One room is designed as an igloo with Perspex, blue-tinted floor, ice-white walls and a stone- carved imitation of Stonehenge, while another supports a north African theme with warm terracotta walls, gold pillars and walls adorned with Arab-influenced ornaments.
Leo lives in a loft conversion, which has been renovated using scrap materials. A furniture restorer by profession, his style is unique. His room is partitioned by a wall of closed doors and the kitchen work tops are made from old printers’ tables covered with second hand metal sheets. Sally’s house, on the other hand, is more conventional.
In one scene Jeremy (Hugo Weaving), an estate agent who is turned on by having sex in other people’s houses, is about to indulge his boyfriend when the sight of a Bhs lamp makes him go limp. The incident humorously, but poignantly portrays his snobbery.
Ashley Rowe, the director of photography, has used accents of light and tone to complement the set design: Leo’s loft features warm and glowing orange colours, Sally’s house is light and airy while Keith’s abode has no natural light whatsoever.
Visually, Bedrooms & Hallways is brilliant. The story holds the attention and the characters have warmth and humour. But don’t expect too deep an analysis of the complexities of sexuality. The film does not tackle the ambiguities of nature but rather points out that people can choose their own destinies.
Bedrooms & Hallways is on general release, certificate 15, and is distributed by Alliance Releasing